WASHINGTON — 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 sharp government spending cuts.
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 helped lead the administration’s response to the financial crisis and recession.
He 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, and also in key budget talks next month to continue funding the government.
Lew began his government service in the 1980s as an aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. He brings nearly three decades of government service to the job, including two stints as White House budget director.
“Mr. Lew is well-qualified to be the nation’s next Treasury secretary,” said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana. “He has demonstrated time and again that he has the knowledge and expertise” to deal with the country’s budget problems.
But Republican Sen. Jeff Session of Alabama, who opposed the nomination, said Lew is the architect of the Obama’s administration’s budget. Sessions said that budget doesn’t reduce the deficit enough.
During his confirmation hearing, Lew signaled no major economic policy changes. He advocated a balanced approach to reducing the long-term budget deficit through spending cuts and additional tax revenue.
Jack Lew is the first Orthodox Jew appointed as a Cabinet member.