Jack Lew: Budget Expert Named New Chief of Staff
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The Fiscal Times
January 9, 2012

President Obama announced today he has chosen budget director Jacob (Jack) Lew to replace William Daley as White House chief of staff in the latest shakeup in an administration gearing up for a tough reelection campaign.

Daley stepped down after only a year in the post, and plans to return to his hometown of Chicago. Obama made the announcement at the White House this afternoon as he stood flanked by both men.

“There is no question I’m going to deeply miss having Bill at my side at the White House, but as he will soon find out, Chicago is only a phone call away and I will be using that phone number quite a bit,” Obama told reporters. “I plan to continue to seek Bill’s advice and counsel on a whole range of issues in the months and years to come, and here in Washington I have every confidence that Jack will make sure that we don’t miss a beat.”

It was no secret that Daley, 63, was on his way out, after he was told last November to hand over most of his day-to-day West Wing responsibilities to senior Obama adviser Pete Rouse and assume what White House officials described as a more strategic operational responsibilities. Daley, a longtime banker who served as secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, was expected to help the White House’s relations with Wall Street as it implemented financial reforms in the wake of the recession. But Daley never appeared comfortable in the job

Daley, who succeeded Rahm Emanuel, raised the ire of Democrats after he accused both congressional Democrats and Republicans of impeding Obama’s ability to lead in an October interview with POLITICO. He was also the subject of widespread criticism from political operatives from both parties, who felt Daley had failed to strengthen relations between the White House and Congress during his first 10 months on the job.

Last weekend, The New York Times published a profile of Michelle Obama, in which the first lady was portrayed as being in conflict with many members of the White House Staff over the past two years, including Emanuel and former press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Lew, highly respected in Washington, was instrumental in negotiating the debt ceiling talks with Republicans in the summer of 2011. He served as director of the Office and Management once before, during the Clinton administration, and spent the first two years of Obama’s administration as a high ranking budget and operations officials in the Department of Defense.

“During his first tour at OMB under President Clinton, Jack was the only budget director in history to preside over budget surpluses for three consecutive years,” Obama said. “And over the last year he has helped strengthen our economy and streamlined the government at a time when we need to do everything we can to keep our recovery going.”

Rough Confirmation Process
Lew was confirmed back in November of 2010 as head the Office of Management and Budget after Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., dropped her months-long hold against the nomination and the Senate confirmed Lew by voice vote. The administration had repeatedly pleaded for a speedy confirmation of Lew to replace former White House budget chief Peter Orszag amid serious budget and economic problems. But Landrieu kept the roadblock in place until she could extract concessions from the Obama administration on deep-water and shallow-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP oil spill and a brief moratorium on drilling.

Lew, a former OMB director during the Clinton administration who served for two years as a high-ranking official in the State Department, had been in limbo since September 2010 while the administration tried to iron out the dispute with Landrieu. In November of that year, Obama welcomed the news of Lew’s confirmation and praised his “unparalleled experience and wisdom” to right the economy.

“After years of irresponsibility in Washington, we need to make the tough choices to put our country back on a sustainable fiscal path and lay the foundation for long-term job creation and economic growth,” Obama said in a statement when Lew was confirmed. “I am confident Jack Lew can lead us in these efforts, and look forward to working with him in the days ahead.”

Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.