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Jack Lew Bio

Likely Treasury Secretary Under President Barack Obama


White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew

President Barack Obama chose White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be his Treasury secretary in January 2013.

The White House

Jack Lew was nominated for Secretary of the Treasury by President Barack Obama on Jan. 10, 2013. Lew served as the White House chief of staff during Obama's first term as president. He was tapped to succeed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The Treasury secretary is a member of the president's cabinet. At a White House ceremony announcing Lew's nomination, Obama said: "Over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy."

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Lew is a 1972 graduate of Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York. He earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1978 and a law degree from Georgetown University in 1983.

Political Career

Lew's career in Washington politics began in 1973, when he served as a legislative aide. He later worked as a domestic policy adviser to legendary House Speaker Tip O'Neill.

Lew served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. He also served as the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of State's office of Management and Resources, the department's chief operating officer.

Private Sector Career

Lew's career in the private sector includes work as the managing director and chief operating officer of Citi Global Wealth Management and then Citi Alternative Investments, according to his official White House biography.

Lew also served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of New York University, a position that placed him in charge of the institution's budget, finance, and operations. He was also a professor of public administration at NYU.

Lew's bio also lists a position on the Corporation for National and Community Service board fo directors. The federal agency works to boost civic engagement through service and volunteering. Lew served as chairman of the corporation's committee on management, administration and governance.

Personal Life

Lew was born in New York City on Aug. 29, 1955. His full name is Jacob Joseph Lew. According to a 2012 profile in the National Journal, Lew is a devoted family man who married his high school sweetheart, Ruth Schwartz.

The National Journal described Lew as a "longtime Washington hand and budget savant who takes comfort in his family and his deep Jewish faith." The profile noted that Lew held "great sway within the White House" during the Obama years.

Lew grants few interviews to the press, and was described by Obama as a "low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras." Obama also described Lew as a "master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises."

Reaction to Nomination

The mainstream media made much of Lew's looping signature, which would appear on U.S. paper currency. Obama, responding to news reports focusing on his nominee's penmanship, joked that he "considered rescinding my offer to appoint him."

"Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency should he be confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury."

But there were was serious criticism of Lew. Some Republicans claimed Lew was unqualified for the job as Treasury secretary. One of Lew's most vocal critics was Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who held a top position on the Senate Banking Committee. "Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury," Sessions said in a written statement.

Sessions took particular exception with Lew's claims that the Obama budgets would not add to the national debt. "We're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt," Lew reportedly said.

"To look the American people in the eye and make such a statement remains the most direct and important false assertion during my entire time in Washington," Sessions said.

Lew was also portrayed as a partisan liberal Democrat - his academic adviser and mentor in college for a year was one of the most liberal lawmakers in the Senate, the late Paul Wellstone - who would be loyal to Obama.

Lew was described in press reports as a "fierce negotiator" who is persistent about explaining the impact of every budget proposal in detail and who is particularly agressive on the issues of wealth disparity and poverty in the United States.

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