Today, President Obama nominated Jacob Lew to be director of the Treasury, placing another nail in the coffin of fiscal reform.
Lew, who currently serves as White House Chief of Staff, formerly served twice as Director of the Office of Management and Budget – the office that oversees drafting federal budgets for the President. In recent fiscal debates, the Treasury Secretary has played a prominent role as a liaison between Congress and the White House.
But will Lew be able to reach out to Republicans in the fashion required by the post? Lew’s OMB leadership experience, which made him an obvious candidate for Treasury Secretary, suggests not. In fact, his record suggests that he will contribute to an even more frigid Washington and ensure fiscal stalemate in 2013.
According to the Washington Post, Lew is a shrewd negotiator, but has a poor relationship with Speaker Boehner. Last year’s debt ceiling negotiations took a significant toll on their relationship:
Mr. Lew’s last go-round with Republicans, the debt ceiling talks in the summer of '11, ended uncharacteristically badly. Mr. Lew, still the budget director at the time, irked Speaker John A. Boehner and his staff, who viewed him as an uncompromising know-it-all.
Joseph Schatz with Politico explains the root of the problem is a failure to compromise:
[Lew’s] combination of policy expertise and liberal partisanship rubs some top Republicans the wrong way.
“He has a hard time putting himself in the shoes of the people he’s talking to, and for having a sense of how what he’s saying is going to be received,” said one Republican aide. “Therefore his suggestions are routinely way off the mark.”
Lew was “always trying to protect the sacred cows of the left,” said Barry Jackson, House Speaker John Boehner’s former chief of staff, in Bob Woodward’s 2012 book, “The Price of Politics.”
In fact, the entire budget offered by the Administration last year demonstrated that the White House isn’t willing to consider compromise, and really doesn’t take the need to balance the budget seriously. Not surprisingly, it was dead on arrival on the Hill.
Under Lew’s leadership, this Administration’s economic policy has focused on expanding government under the guise of creating jobs (short, unsustainable, government jobs, of course) and expanding, rather than reforming, our entitlement programs.
Lew may know the ins and outs of federal spending and Congress, yet unless he shifts his leadership style, there is little chance of fiscal reform.