Jack Lew: The right choice for Treasury secretary?

President Obama's chief of staff is reportedly getting the nod

Some GOPers say White House Chief of staff Jack Lew shouldn't be Treasury secretary — because he shares Obama's views.
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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:

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

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:

See more

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.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Ryu Spaeth

Ryu Spaeth is deputy editor at TheWeek.com. Follow him on Twitter.