On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said it could be "difficult" for the Senate to confirm Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, if Congress did not receive documents from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) pertaining to Lew's violation of a Medicare law.
In a letter to OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, Sessions said Lew, when he was Budget director, failed to comply with a law that required him submit to Congress legislative proposals to shore up Medicare funding after Medicare trustees issued funding warnings.
“In order to properly consider Mr. Lew’s nomination, Congress will need documents pertaining to his role in the violation of this law, as well as a concrete legislative proposal that brings the Administration into legal compliance," Sessions wrote. "Failure to do so could make it difficult for Mr. Lew’s nomination to move forward.”
In a previous letter, Zients had indicated the White House was not bound by the Medicare modernization law.
Sessions said Zients's reply to "the letter from our committee members was non-responsive" and the "administration has never complied with the Medicare trigger." He said Zients "effectively conceded as much" in his letter by claiming the law was not binding.
"The law is unambiguous and yet the Administration has never sent Congress the legally mandated legislative proposal in response to four consecutive Medicare funding warnings," Sessions wrote.
Sessions said he was "stunned" that Zients would "suggest that the President’s health law in any way satisfies the legal conditions of the trigger."
"As you are no doubt aware, a funding warning has been issued in every year since that law was passed," Sessions wrote. "Not only is a legislative response to the funding warning necessitated by law, it is also required by the perilous financial condition of Medicare."
When he was the OMB Director, Lew "was responsible any legislation pertaining to budget law compliance"; he would be Chairman of Medicare's board of trustees if confirmed as Treasury Secretary.
Lew, who was Obama's former chief of staff and budget director, will testify on Wednesday before the Senate in order to be confirmed.