On Wednesday, the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said he plans to vigorously oppose President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew.
“Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury,” said Mr. Sessions in a statement. “His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies.”
On Feb. 13, 2011, Mr. Lew appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley and said of Mr. Obama’s proposed budget:
Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.
During Senate testimony, Mr. Sessions blasted Mr. Lew’s false statement and said he was “flatly in error”:
Lew, who is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has at times displayed a striking level of ignorance over how the budgetary process operates.
During the Crowley interview, Mr. Lew said that the reason Mr. Obama has failed to pass a budget in the Senate is because such bills can be filibustered. But as anyone familiar with the process knows, budgets are considered “privileged,” meaning they do not require a filibuster-proof majority 60 votes and can instead be passed with a simple majority.
Mr. Lew repeated the elementary error to NBC’s David Gregory. “One of the things about the United States Senate that I think the American people don’t realize,” said Mr. Lew confidently, “is that it takes 60 votes, not 50, to pass something.”
One would think the former head of OMB–the nation’s top budget post–would know how the budget process works. But apparently Mr. Lew does not.
Now, Mr. Lew has been nominated to become Treasury Secretary of the United States in the worst economy since the Great Depression. That, says Mr. Sessions, cannot happen:
It’s time for a Secretary of Treasury to look the American people in the eye and lay out an economic plan for America that will end our debt path that has endangered our future and which will find support among the American people and the world’s financial community. Far from being a positive force towards this essential good, Mr. Lew has given priority to the political interests of the President, in whose White House inner circle he has now served for several years.
At this time of unprecedented slow growth, high unemployment, and huge deficits, we need a Secretary of Treasury that the American people, the Congress, and the world will know is up to the task of getting America on the path to prosperity not the path to decline. Jack Lew is not that man.
Questions have also emerged over a $950,000 bonus Mr. Lew received in 2009 in his role as chief operating officer of Citigroup’s Alternative Investments unit–a group that bet billions against homeowners paying their mortgages. Mr. Obama has previously railed against “obscene” Wall Street bonuses wherein “fat cats” get “awarded for their failure.” Still, Mr. Lew took the money.
In a letter to Mr. Lew, Sen. Chuck Grassley asked, “How is it in the public’s interest for you to receive a $1 million bonus on the eve of a massive $301 billion commitment to rescue Citigroup?”
Mr. Lew’s response: “My position at Citi was a management position. I was not an investment adviser. My compensation was in line with other management executives at the firm and in similarly complex operations.”
It is presently unknown whether Mr. Sessions plans to filibuster the Jack Lew nomination.