Jacob Lew gets nod from Obama to head Treasury

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WASHINGTON -- With his choice of Jacob Lew to be treasury secretary, President Barack Obama today will complete his economic team's transformation from the big-name economists and financial firefighters hired four years ago to budget negotiators ready for the next fiscal fights in Congress.

If confirmed by the Senate, the 57-year-old Mr. Lew -- Mr. Obama's current chief of staff and former budget director -- would become the president's second treasury secretary, succeeding Timothy Geithner, who was the last remaining principal from the original economic team that took office at the height of the global crisis in January 2009.

While the team is changing, so far it is made up entirely of men who have been part of the administration since its first months. Gene Sperling, like Mr. Lew a Clinton administration veteran, is expected to remain as director of the White House National Economic Council. Alan Krueger, a former Treasury Department economist, continues for now as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jeffrey Zients, a former business executive, serves as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

That composition gives Mr. Obama a high degree of comfort with his economic advisers, who have experience in the budget struggles that have occupied the administration since Republicans took control of the House two years ago. Those struggles will resume later this month. Yet the continuity also plays into criticism that the president is too insular and insufficiently open to outside voices and fresh eyes in the White House.

Adding to a scarcity of female advisers among Mr. Obama's top aides, Hilda Solis, labor secretary for four years, announced Wednesday that she would be resigning, following the most prominent female Cabinet member, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, out of the administration.

Separately, administration officials let it be known Wednesday that several Cabinet members will remain in their jobs: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is expected to stay through full implementation of the 2010 health care law in 2014; Attorney General Eric Holder; and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

If Mr. Lew is confirmed in time, his first test as treasury secretary could come as soon as next month, when the administration and congressional Republicans are expected to face off over increasing the nation's debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on the amount that the government can borrow. Mr. Obama has said he will not negotiate over raising that limit, which was often lifted routinely in the past, but Republican leaders have said they would refuse to support an increase unless he agrees to an equal amount of spending cuts, particularly to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Mr. Lew was passed over for Mr. Obama's economic team four years ago, when Mr. Obama instead chose Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard University president and treasury secretary, as director of the National Economic Council.

nation


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