White House budget nominee Lew easily clears Senate panel

Jacob Lew, President Obama’s nominee for White House budget director, won a near-unanimous recommendation from the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday.

The vote was 22-1, with only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opposed.

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Lew has won praise from members of both parties since Obama announced his nomination in July. Lew earned a reputation for working with both parties during his first stint as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Clinton administration. During his tenure, Lew turned around a budget deficit and oversaw three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

“Jack is the ideal person to lead OMB during these challenging fiscal and economic times,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said in a statement. “He brings with him exactly the kind of experience, knowledge, bipartisan spirit, and integrity we need at OMB right now.”

Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the panel’s top Republican on the Budget Committee, has called Lew an “excellent” choice, but he said he will have a more difficult job this time because of unsustainable deficit projections. The budget shortfall is expected to approach $1.4 trillion this year and average nearly $1 trillion for the next decade, a situation both independent experts and Lew himself have called “unsustainable.”

Lew's nomination won unanimous support from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier in the week.

Conrad said he’s hoping for a Senate floor vote on Lew’s nomination before lawmakers leave to campaign for the November midterms. The Senate is scheduled to leave after Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, but Democratic leaders have left open the possibility of departing a week earlier.

If confirmed, Lew would replace Peter Orszag, who stepped down last month.

Sanders, the lone vote against Lew, had concerns that Lew wouldn’t fight corporate interests.

“Frankly, I found too many echoes of the failed policies of the past in his responses to my questions on trade policy, Social Security, deregulation of banks and other issues,” Sanders said in a statement.

“It is my strong belief that President Obama needs an OMB Director who is willing to stand up to corporate America and the wealthy, say enough is enough and fight for policies that protect the working class in this country,” Sanders added.