Today’s nomination of White House chief of staff Jack Lew to replace Tim Geithner at the Treasury Department drew some unusual bedfellows together in opposing President Obama’s pick.
“I cannot think of a better person to continue Tim’s work at Treasury than Jack Lew,” Obama said at his early afternoon announcement. “This is bittersweet not only because Tim is leaving, but also because Jack has been my chief of staff for the last year. He was my budget director before that. I trust his judgment. I value his friendship. I know very few people with greater integrity than the man to my left. And so I don’t want to see him go because it’s working out really well for me to have him here in the White House. But my loss will be the nation’s gain.”
No, it won’t, countered Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he joined Republican opponents to the nod.
“Jack Lew is clearly an extremely intelligent person and I applaud his many years of public service to our country. I believe that he will be confirmed by the Senate,” Sanders said. “Unfortunately, he will be confirmed without my vote. At a time when the middle class is collapsing and millions of workers are unemployed, I do not believe he is the right person at the right time to serve in this important position.”
“We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis,” he added. “We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.”
The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), vowed to block the Lew nomination.
“Jack Lew must never be Secretary of the Treasury,” Sessions said. “At this time of unprecedented slow growth, high unemployment, and huge deficits, we need a Secretary of the Treasury that the American people, the Congress, and the world will know is up to the task of getting America on the path to prosperity not the path to decline. Jack Lew is not that man.”
Other Republicans signaled concerns about the pick. “It virtually guarantees the president will not compromise on entitlement reform, and assures that the White House will fight to maintain the status quo of our deeply dysfunctional system,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “At a moment when the president could have shown a willingness to work with Republicans to fix the challenges that face the country, he has instead moved in a disappointing direction.”
“Under Jack Lew’s leadership at the Office of Management and Budget, we saw trillion dollar deficits and no serious attempt to rein in spending,” said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “As President Obama’s chief of staff, we’ve seen on-going dilatory tactics as the nation stares down one fiscal crisis after another. While Mr. Lew deserves a fair hearing, Texans deserve to hear the president’s plan for cutting spending and balancing our budget.”
Lew’s Democratic supporters asserted that he comes well equipped for the job.
“America needs the stability and predictability that can only come from a new Secretary of the Treasury who already is intimately familiar with the economic and budget reality facing our country and someone who has the experience to articulate a balanced solution to our problems,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “I look forward to a fair and open confirmation process, during which we can fully examine Mr. Lew’s extensive experience in finding thoughtful and appropriate solutions for our fiscal challenges.”
“Jack Lew is respected on both sides of the aisle for his deep knowledge on fiscal matters and his strong commitment to public service. From Wall Street to the West Wing, his expertise and calm, rational temperament have made him a trusted adviser and respected leader,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “I’m confident he will continue to serve our country with distinction and will be an excellent Secretary of the Treasury.”