By MARTIN CRUTSINGERWASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Jacob Lew is scheduled to be sworn in Thursday as Treasury secretary and will have to hit the ground running. He is taking over the job just a day before huge automatic government spending cuts are set to take effect. He's likely to be involved with any negotiations to reverse the cuts, and also in budget talks next month to continue funding the government. The Senate confirmed Lew late Wednesday, affirming President Barack Obama's choice of a budget expert at a time when Congress and the White House are at odds over spending and taxes. "At this critical time for our economy and our country, there is no one more qualified for this position than Jack," Obama said in a statement issued after the Senate vote. "His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington." The vote was 71 to 26 to support the nomination. Voting against Lew's confirmation were 25 Republicans and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Lew, 57, had most recently served as Obama's chief of staff. He succeeds Timothy Geithner, who completed a tumultuous four-year term in which he helped lead the administration's response to the financial crisis and recession. Lew began his government service in the 1980s as an aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill. He brings nearly three decades of government service to the job, including two stints as White House budget director. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who opposed the nomination, said Lew as budget director was the architect of the Obama's administration's failed efforts to get soaring deficits under control. During his confirmation hearing, Lew signaled no major economic policy changes. He advocated a balanced approach to reducing the long-term budget deficit through spending cuts and additional tax revenue.