The Senate confirmed Jacob Lew to be Treasury secretary, affirming President Barack Obama’s choice of a budget expert at a time when Congress and the White House are at odds over spending cuts and increased taxes.
The Senate voted 71-26 to support the nomination.
Lew, 57, had most recently served as Obama’s chief of staff. He succeeds Timothy Geithner, who completed a tumultuous four-year term in which he headed the administration’s response to the financial crisis and recession.
Lew takes over just before automatic spending cuts are set to take effect. He’s likely to take part in any negotiations to reverse the cuts, which is funny considering sequester was his idea in the first place, according to noted journalist Bob Woodward.
“My extensive reporting for my book ‘The Price of Politics‘ shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government,” Woodward writes.
Beyond the budget, Lew is expected to hew closely to the positions Geithner struck on Europe’s debt crisis, the U.S. relationship with China, and the administration’s defense of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law.
Some Republicans voted against Lew because they were not satisfied with his answers about his previous employment with Citigroup, including a brief time when he was chief operating officer for an investment unit in 2008. The unit has been criticized for making risky investments that imploded during the financial crisis. And Lew received a bonus of nearly $1 million in early 2009, a time when Citi was being bailed out by taxpayers.
Lew told the panel that he didn’t make decisions about the investments being offered to clients. He said his bonus reflected compensation for his work.
Still, some are uneasy that his confirmation went through with little opposition.
“It’s a travesty that Lew had such an easy confirmation,” writes Human Event’s David Harsanyi.
“Lew consistently lied, wrote budgets no one could vote for, took a crony payoff from a bailed-out firm,” he adds, “but I do give him props for coming up with the sequester.”
Here’s a breakdown of how the senate voted:
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The AP contributed to this report. Featured image Getty Images.