The most liberal and conservative elements of the United States Senate are coming together to oppose the nomination of Jack Lew as President Barack Obama’s next Treasury secretary.
One might think that Jack Lew, a man who was mentored by the late liberal Sen. Paul Wellstone and who interned for Eugene McCarthy, would be the kind of nominee self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) might passionately support. Not so.
On Thursday, Mr. Sanders issued a statement opposing the Jack Lew nomination:
“At a time when the middle class is collapsing and millions of workers are unemployed, I do not believe he is the right person at the right time to serve in this important position…As a supporter of the president, I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street. In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.”
And as the Huffington Post noted today, Mr. Lew’s views on deregulation are “at odds with the position of his own Democratic Party and many regulators.”
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Mr. Lew has sparked fierce conservative opposition as well. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said on Wednesday that “Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury. His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies” Lew.
Republicans on Capitol Hill share Mr. Sessions’s view. As one GOP aide told John Carney of CNBC:
“No matter what you’re proposing or no matter what compromise you’re trying to forge, he comes at it from a position of, ‘Whatever you want, I have to be against,'” the GOP aide said. “It doesn’t advantage him in the negotiation, he doesn’t get a different policy outcome than he would otherwise. It just irritates people. … It’s as much personality as anything else.”
As Left and Right oppose Mr. Lew, Wall Street is turning a cold shoulder to his nomination as well. Despite Mr. Lew’s short stint working for bailout recipient Citigroup–wherein Lew bagged a nearly $950,000 bonus–Wall Street doesn’t want Lew either: “I’ve talked to a bunch of investors and it’s seen as a net negative going from [Tim] Geithner to Lew,” senior political analyst at Guggenheim Partners Chris Krueger told Fortune, “Who does Wall Street want? Not Jack Lew.”
Ultimately, the fate of Mr. Lew’s nomination will come down to how the Senate Finance Committee handles his confirmation hearing. So far, the Republican Ranking Member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has remained neutral on the Lew nomination, saying: “[I]t’s imperative that Mr. Lew outline the Administration’s plans on tackling our unsustainable debt, what areas of federal spending should be cut, and what kind of reforms– from our tax code to our entitlement programs–are needed to get our fiscal house in order.”