Confirming previous reports, President Obama will nominate his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner as the next secretary of the Treasury, according to Hans Nichols at Bloomberg. Lew, who previously served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, is considered one of Obama's closest advisers, and has played an integral role in the White House's negotiations with Republicans on the debt ceiling in 2011 and, more recently, the fiscal cliff.
Lew's nomination raises a host of intriguing questions — Who will replace him as chief of staff? Where does he stand on the $1 trillion coin? Will he change his awful signature before it graces the nation's currency? — but with his strong background in budget matters, he is clearly qualified for the position. A reserved type (he's been described as a grown-up Harry Potter "with Excel spreadsheets"), he doesn't come across as the kind of controversial, bombastic figure who would polarize Congress. Indeed, he even once won praise from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who told Politico in 2011 that Lew "was always very polite and respectful in his tone and someone who I can tell is very committed to his principles."
But Cantor was speaking before the debt ceiling imbroglio and the fiscal cliff brouhaha. And as the saying goes, the past may as well be a foreign country: They do things differently there. According to Manu Raju at Politico, Republicans in Congress are now "scoffing" at the notion of Lew as Treasury secretary, largely because of his role in representing the White House in budget talks. Says Raju:
Several Republicans said Tuesday they don't view Lew as a man interested in hearing GOP concerns. One aide called him "tone deaf" in understanding the compromises that Republicans could accept during high-stakes talks. [Politico]
But Republican complaints about Lew have struck some as a little rich. Lew's job as Treasury secretary would entail serving the White House, not the interests of the Tea Party-wracked GOP. It seems their main opposition to Lew is that — shocker — he shares Obama's views on economic policy. As Jonathan Chait at New York put it:
Lew nomination in danger due to scandalous ideological link to left-wing former community organizer Barack Obama nymag.com/daily/intellig…
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 9, 2013
Either way, it appears Lew may emerge as another lightning rod for conservative criticism as Obama tries to fill out his second cabinet, solidifying a trend in Republican circles to threaten almost every one of Obama's nominations.