Obama to Nominate Lew As Treasury Chief Thursday

Washington (Reuters/Hamodia) -

President Barack Obama will nominate White House chief of staff Jack Lew to be his next Treasury secretary, choosing a budget expert and close confidant to spearhead tough fiscal fights with Congress over the U.S. deficit.

Lew is an Orthodox Jew. During Obama’s re-election campaign, he campaigned for the president with Jewish constituents in Florida.

If confirmed by the Senate, Lew will replace Timothy Geithner, the longest-serving member of Obama’s original economic team, who has said he would step down after one term.

A source familiar with the matter said Lew, who had been widely expected to be tapped for the role, will be nominated on Thursday.

Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Federal Government Affairs and Washington Director and Counsel said to Hamodia, “President Obama’s reported intention to nominate Jack Lew as Secretary of the  Treasury is welcome news, indeed.

“Jack is a person of great skill and intellect.  His reputation as an extraordinarily hard worker — one with a firm grasp of both policy and politics — is well known. Above all, he is a person of integrity.

“To Agudath Israel and the Jewish community, Jack has always been receptive and helpful and we look forward to continue working with him on issues facing our country and community.

“We wish him much success at the Department of Treasury and have no doubt that he will fulfill his responsibilities admirably in his new role, as he has done in the past.”

The announcement will round out a slew of cabinet choices Obama has made in recent weeks that will help set the agenda for his second term.

Lew served as budget director for Obama and for former President Bill Clinton. A 57-year-old policy wonk, he will have to confront a host of tricky economic topics ranging from how best to scale back the government’s role in the housing market to how to respond to China’s economic heft.

But the high-profile Washington battle over how to rein in the growth of the nation’s debt and put the budget on a sustainable path will dominate his tenure.

Though he is mistrusted by a number of Republicans, Lew has some bipartisan credentials that might help him in budget talks.

His nomination will leave open the position of chief of staff. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, is considered the top candidate to take on that role.

Looming Budget Deadlines

Lew’s portfolio will be at the heart of Obama’s second term agenda. Fresh from difficult talks to prevent a U.S. “fiscal cliff,” the president has made deficit reduction a top priority for the next four years.

Republicans, many of whom were unhappy with the pact agreed to at year’s end that raised tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, are unlikely to block his nomination.

“I don’t think Republicans are terribly excited about the pick, but I don’t think that they’ll do anything to derail the nomination,” said Michelle Girard, a senior U.S. economist at RBS. “I think that he’ll be confirmed and they’ll go on to the battles that need to be fought.”

Three fiscal deadlines loom.

By the end of February, Congress must raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on how much the Treasury can borrow or risk a damaging debt default.

On March 1, deep automatic spending cuts to defense and to a wide swath of domestic programs start to go into effect unless Congress acts.

And at the end of March, a stop-gap funding measure expires and the government could be forced to shut down if Congress does not approve another bill to fund federal operations.

Geithner, who survived calls for his resignation and bore the brunt of the criticism for how the Obama administration handled the financial crisis, managed to win over Republican lawmakers in his four years as Treasury secretary.

Late last year, Obama picked Geithner over Lew to lead talks with Congress to avert the New Year’s day “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts. Lew had angered key Republicans during budget negotiations in 2011.