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Jack Lew to be nominated to be Treasury secretary

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will nominate White House chief of staff Jack Lew to be his next secretary of the Treasury, turning to one of Washington's most knowledgeable budget experts to manage fiscal negotiations with Congress and steer the still-shaky national economy.

Lew's nomination, expected today, accelerates the second-term overhaul of Obama's top advisers, with new leaders at the Pentagon, State Department, CIA and Labor Department. Obama also must replace Lew with a new chief of staff, and that could have a ripple effect through the West Wing's senior ranks.

A day before the formal announcement, White House press secretary Jay Carney praised the expected nominee: "Over the past more than quarter of a century, Jack Lew has been an integral part of some of the most important budgetary financial and fiscal agreements, bipartisan agreements in Washington."

Lew, 57, would bring to Treasury a mastery of federal budget mechanics, honed during two stints as director of the Office of Management and Budget. While running OMB during the Clinton administration, Lew helped negotiate a balanced-budget agreement with Congress, something that has eluded Washington ever since.

Lew's budget background could help shape the Obama administration's strategy in talks with congressional Republicans over the federal debt ceiling. GOP lawmakers are expected to demand deep budget cuts as the price for agreeing to raise the debt limit, which is expected to be reached sometime in February.

"His resume is tailor-made for what is most important right now," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, a financial services firm based in Chicago.

Lew has long been considered the favorite to replace current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The last original member of Obama's economic team, Geithner plans to leave the administration in late January.

Lew is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate. A pragmatic liberal and Orthodox Jew who doesn't work on Saturdays, he is well-liked in Washington by both Democrats and Republicans.

Who's Lew

  • Born and raised in New York City, attended Forest Hills High School
  • Still commutes to New York from Washington on weekends, with a home in Riverdale.
  • Age: 57
  • Graduated Harvard College in 1978; law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1983.
  • Government work: First went to Washington in 1973 to work for Rep. Bella Abzug (D-Manhattan). Later, was adviser to House Speaker Tip O'Neill during the 1983 Social Security overhaul, President Bill Clinton's deputy budget chief in mid-1990s and President Barack Obama's budget director during the 2011 debt-ceiling talks.
  • Private sector work: Held top executive posts at Citigroup and New York University.
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