At the end of last week, President Barack Obama nominated Jack Lew, who currently serves as White House Chief of State, to replace Timothy Geithner as the next Treasury Secretary. While he may eventually win confirmation, the White House and Lew may have a fight on their hands in the Senate:
Republicans say Jack Lew will have to answer for what they view as the president’s bare-knuckle tactics when Lew undergoes the Senate confirmation process for Treasury secretary.
Republicans are frustrated that Obama has not put forth what they would consider a credible plan to reform entitlement programs. And they were angered when after the election he traveled to Pennsylvania and Virginia for campaign-style events to pressure Republicans to extend the middle-class tax cuts.
Senate GOP aides say Lew will be called to account for the White House’s tactics when he comes before the Senate Finance Committee.
“He’s coming to the Senate from the chief of staff’s role in the White House and this White House just points the finger at everyone else. It refuses to take the blame for the bad things that are happening. This is a White House that is overly political and not really interested in alternate points of view,” said a senior Senate GOP aide.
“He’s going to be facing a lot of questions related to his involvement in the White House. He’s the top dog over there. He’s responsible for the direction,” the aide said. “It’s a shame the president would send along such a divisive figure.”
Senate Republicans find many of Lew’s statements and actions to be troubling. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, has flatly stated that Lew “must never be Secretary of the Treasury.” Sessions recently appeared on Fox News to outline some of the problems with Lew’s statements over the years.
One quote cited by Sessions stuck out in particular. During a 2011 interview on CNN, Lew said, “Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”
Sure, that sounds great — but it’s a completely lie. As you can see from this graph, budget deficits over the 10-year period for which Lew was discussing at the time were never set to fall below $607 billion (2015). And by 2021, the deficit was set to come at $774 billion.
Lew has also lied about the budget process. The Congress hasn’t passed a budget since April 29, 2009 (Democrats had complete control of Congress until January 3, 2011). During appearances on talk shows early, Lew claimed that the reason for the lack of a budget was because Republicans were filibustering. This is completely untrue because budgets cannot be filibustered.
House Republicans also found Lew difficult to work with, which doesn’t lend credence to all the calls for bipartisanship in Washington. According to one account from 2011, House Speaker John Boehner literally asked President Obama not to send Lew, who was then serving as Director of Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to debt ceiling ceiling talks because of his proclivity for saying “no.”
And not only does he have problems telling the truth and getting along well with others, Lew apparently doesn’t want to do anything to cut spending or to substantively reform entitlements.
Not only has he played a significant role in the failures of the White House to do anything in terms of producing a sustainable budget, Lew also has a troubling past in the private sector. According to the Washington Post, Lew was “a top executive in the Citigroup unit that housed many of the bank’s riskiest operations, including its hedge funds and private equity investments.” Citigroup was on the receiving end of a $45 billion taxpayer-funded bailout in 2008.
Lew’s time on Wall Street is the main reason that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with Democrats, is opposing the nomination. And while we should begrudge people for making an honest living, Lew has proven himself to be untrustworthy and utterly undeserving of the role for which he has been nominated.