Obama likely to name Wal-Mart Foundation head as budget director


President Obama is likely to announce soon that Sylvia Mathews Burwell will be his next budget director, sources said Friday.

Burwell is a veteran of the Clinton administration, where she served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. She is a close associate of former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and outgoing White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, who is Obama’s pick to be Treasury secretary. 

Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients would either return to his previous role as the deputy OMB director overseeing the management of the government or assume a new role, should Burwell get the nod. His name has been mentioned as a possible replacement for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who leaves next month. Zients took over the budget role after Lew left OMB to become chief of staff last year.

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A key consideration in the Burwell pick might be her gender, given the number of white males Obama has tapped for Cabinet posts in recent week. 

Since leaving government, Burwell has become a major force in philanthropy. She is the president of the Wal-Mart Foundation and previously worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Burwell hails from Hinton, W.Va. and was a Rhodes scholar at Harvard University. She worked at McKinsey & Co. as a management consultant before joining the Clinton administration.

A Senate GOP source said that Burwell’s confirmation hearing at the Budget Committee could be rough regardless of her qualifications, given criticism Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) had made of Lew and Obama.

Sessions alleges Lew lied to Congress about Obama’s budget plans. The GOP source said the Burwell hearing will be an opportunity to highlight Lew’s record and the five years of $1 trillion-plus deficits under Obama. 

Obama under the law must submit his 2014 budget by Feb. 4, but the White House informed Congress this month that this deadline will not be met. 

Lew will come before the Finance Committee for his confirmation hearing, avoiding a grilling by Sessions.