If confirmed, Lew would assume the post in time for the administration to tangle anew with Republicans over a confluence of three looming fiscal deadlines â¿¿ raising the $16.4 trillion federal borrowing limit, averting automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, and the expiration of a congressional resolution that has been keeping the government operating. Those three events, if unresolved, would have a far greater negative effect on the economy than the "fiscal cliff" that Obama and Congress avoided a week ago.
Lew, 57, has often been described as a "pragmatic liberal" who understands what it takes to make a deal even as he stands by his ideological views.
"He's a political guy. He didn't get where he is today by being a shrinking violet," said Paul Light, a public policy professor at New York University and an acquaintance of Lew's. "But he's really a doer. He's the kind of guy you want at the table if you want to get something done."
One senior Republican senator, Alabama's Jeff Sessions, voiced opposition to Lew. But while Lew may face a tough confirmation in the Senate, he's not likely to encounter the type of stiff opposition that is already mounting against former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican whom Obama has tapped to be his defense secretary."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," said Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. "Jack Lew is not that man." Initial reactions from the business and financial sectors, however, were far more positive. "One of the realities of Mr. Lew's appointment is the challenges we face in the country right now â¿¿ the cliffs we have in front of us," said Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "I think Jack is a very experienced fellow on the issues of debt, deficits and budgets."