President Barack Obama could formally announce as early as Thursday morning his pick of Jacob Jack Lew, his current chief of staff and formerly the administrations budget director and a top State Department official, to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the last remaining member of Obamas original economic team.
In Lew, Obama is seeking a secretary who lacks the luster of a Wall Street CEO or the gravitas of a renowned economic forecaster. But he would get a trusted confidant who has the presidents ear and has extensive experience in the federal budget, perhaps the most serious flashpoint now in the government, with Obama engaged in repeated battles with Republicans in the House of Representatives over taxes and spending.
Lew also has not drawn any of the partisan fire that instantly greeted early reports of Obamas plans to nominate United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to be secretary of state or former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense. That could suggest hed win relatively easy confirmation in the Senate, which earlier confirmed his appointment to the lower-profile post of deputy secretary of state. Quick confirmation would put him in place in time for what are expected to be acrimonious months ahead.
Hed immediately step into the fray. The United States on Dec. 31 hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit, and the Treasury Department has undertaken what are called emergency measures to keep paying the bills it owes to creditors. These measures, however, might run out as early as Feb. 15, raising the potential of a partial default on some U.S. debt, which could disrupt global financial markets.
Lew, 57, worked in the 1970s for legendary House Speaker Tip ONeill and is a veteran of decades of budget negotiations. He also served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources.
The lack of significant experience in the financial sector could make Lew a risky pick should the markets go haywire as they did in 2007 and 2008.