10:35 am Jan. 9, 2013
After announcing the controversial nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan to head the Defense Department and C.I.A., respectively, President Obama is set to nominate his chief of staff, Jack Lew, as Treasury Secretary.
In theory, Lew, a native New Yorker, should be the easy one.
He brings an accomplished resume, including two stints as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and he's a relatively low-key operator who doesn't make many headlines.
But Lew reportedly angered both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner during the administration's debt ceiling battle in 2011. The New York Times, in a profile last month, said those negotiations "ended uncharacteristically badly" and that Boehner's office viewed him "as an uncompromising know-it-all."
So when President Obama delegated the lead role in the latest fiscal cliff negotiations to the current Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, it was widely seen as a move to preserve the remaining goodwill toward Lew, in advance of his appointment.
Still, some bad blood remains.
A couple of Republican senators preemptively went on the record to Politico, signaling their intention to fight Lew's nomination.
Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, said Lew would be "controversial," and Alabama's Jeff Sessions said his nomination would be a "mistake."
There could be some new grist for questioning Lew, as reporters and researchers delve into his background, in particular his stint at Citi Group in the years before the financial collapse. The Huffington Post reported this morning that a division overseen by Lew invested in a hedge fund that shorted some housing stocks.
But most of his career has been in government, and the primary objection to Lew's appointment seems to be that he is a strong advocate for the administration's policies. That seems unlikely to disqualify him, even in today's highly partisan Senate.
Lew can be relatively certain he won't face the kind of questions from Jewish leaders that have already threatened to hurt Hagel's chances. If confirmed, Lew would be the highest-ranking Orthodox Jew in the government.