WASHINGTON — Jack Lew was confirmed Wednesday as the nation’s next Secretary of the Treasury.in a bipartisan 71-26 vote.
Lew, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and a budget director in both the Obama and Clinton administrations, has years of experience in Washington, but his financial expertise and personal financial affairs came under fire on his road to confirmation.
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., offered strong support for Lew when he placed the confirmation vote on the Senate schedule.
“We need a strong man at the helm to help tackle the many fiscal challenges facing this nation and I believe Jack Lew is that man,” Baucus said. “He is eager to work with all of us here in Congress to strengthen the American economy.”
The president applauded the confirmation shortly after the Senate vote.
“I am pleased that the Senate took bipartisan action today to confirm Jack Lew as our nation’s next Treasury Secretary,” Obama said in a statement. “At this critical time for our economy and our country, there is no one more qualified for this position than Jack.”
Obama has faced stiff opposition from Republicans for many of his second-term appointments. Despite the support for Lew, Obama’s other nominees have endured difficult confirmation proceedings — with more to come. Republicans in unprecedented fashion filibustered defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s confirmation earlier this month. John Brennan, Obama’s nominee for CIA director, is also expected to face a tough confirmation process.
Despite giving Lew his vote of confidence in the Finance Committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, top Republican on the panel, voted for Lew but remained skeptical that he was the best person for the job.
“Given my many reservations and concerns about Mr. Lew, I hope that he and the president take note that I am bending over backwards to display deference to the president’s choice of treasury secretary,” Hatch said Wednesday. “This gesture, I hope, will not be in vain.”
Other Republicans are not as willing to take a chance on the treasury nominee.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was frustrated with Lew’s answers at confirmation hearings regarding his time as an administrator at New York University and his investments in the Cayman Islands. Grassley said the Senate was “rushing head on” to confirm Lew and he would not vote for him.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., joined 25 Republicans voting against Lew’s confirmation.