Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Taps Budget Wrangler for Treasury ; Nominee Will Face Battle over U.S. Debt Ceiling, If Confirmed by Next Month

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Taps Budget Wrangler for Treasury ; Nominee Will Face Battle over U.S. Debt Ceiling, If Confirmed by Next Month

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama will put forward the name of Jacob J. Lew as his nominee to replace Timothy F. Geithner.

With his choice of Jacob J. Lew to be secretary of the Treasury, President Barack Obama has completed the transformation of his economic team from the big-name economists and financial firefighters hired four years ago to budget negotiators ready for the next financial 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 F. 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 B. Sperling, like Mr. Lew a veteran of the Clinton administration, is expected to remain as director of the White House National Economic Council. Alan B. Krueger, a former Treasury economist, continues as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and Jeffrey D. Zients, a former business executive, 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 L. Solis, the secretary of labor 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 would remain in their jobs: Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, who is expected to stay through the full adoption of the 2010 health care law in 2014; Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general; and Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs.

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 confront each other 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 will refuse to support an increase unless he agrees to an equal amount of spending cuts, particularly to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Mr. Lew was passed over for Mr. Obama's economic team four years ago, when Mr. Obama instead chose Lawrence H. Summers, a former Harvard University president and Treasury secretary, as director of the National Economic Council. Mrs. Clinton then hired Mr. Lew at the State Department, and in late 2010 -- over the objections of Mrs. …

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