Wednesday 13 December 2017

Obama to name Lew for Treasury

Jeff Mason and Rachelle Younglai

US President Barack Obama will nominate White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be his next Treasury Secretary, choosing a budget expert to spearhead tough fiscal fights with Congress over the US deficit.

If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Timothy Geithner, the longest-serving member of Mr Obama's original economic team, who has said he would step down after one term.

US media said Mr Lew, who had been widely expected to be tapped for the role, will be nominated today.

Mr Lew served as budget director for Mr Obama and for former president Bill Clinton.

A State Department deputy secretary early in Mr Obama's first term, the 57-year-old will have to confront a host of tricky economic topics including how best to scale back the government's role in the housing market.

Nothing, however, will consume his time as much as the battle over how to rein in the growth of the nation's debt and put the budget on a sustainable path.

Even though he is mistrusted by many Republicans, he has some bipartisan credentials that might help in budget struggles with Republicans in Congress.

The one-time Citigroup executive honed his political skills as an adviser to Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill, who is touted as a symbol of bipartisanship because he worked with Republican president Ronald Reagan to change the tax code and the social security retirement programme in the 1980s.

Pamela Jackson, who worked with Mr Lew when Mr O'Neill was speaker, said: "Jack is more concerned about what's fair than any personal attention or credit."

Three fiscal deadlines loom in the US.

By the end of February, Congress must raise the $16.4trn (€12.5trn) debt ceiling on how much the Treasury can borrow or risk a damaging debt default.

On March 1, automatic spending cuts to defence and a wide swath of domestic programmes start to go into effect unless Congress acts.

And at the end of March, a stop-gap funding measure expires and the government could be forced to shut down if Congress does not approve another bill to fund federal operations. (Reuters)

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