WASHINGTON — For 30 years, Jack Lew has had a hand in some of the biggest economic deals negotiated in Washington. What awaits him if he's confirmed as Treasury secretary could far exceed any challenge of the past — a triple-decked potential crisis that will test his experience the moment he opens his office door on the third floor of the Treasury building.
Lew, nominated for the job Thursday by President Barack Obama, has honed his skills in the trenches of fiscal policy, helping forge major deals encompassing Social Security and budgets for the likes of former Speaker Tip O'Neill and President Bill Clinton.
Obama highlighted that experience in announcing Lew's selection, an unmistakable nod to the fast-approaching deadlines to raise the government borrowing limit, avert deep and immediate spending cuts and extend government operations. "I trust his judgment," Obama said. "I value his friendship. I know very few people with greater integrity."
Flanked by Lew and outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the White House's ornate East Room, Obama in effect underscored the nation's changing economic landscape. In Geithner, Obama had a longtime banking and monetary policy specialist with the Treasury and the Federal Reserve who took office in 2009 at the height of the nation's financial crisis. In Lew, he has a premier budget expert as the government plunges into its next struggle over debts and deficits.
"Over the years, he's built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises," the president said on Thursday.