Obama taps Burwell for budget chief

President Obama nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday to head up the White House's budget office, heralding the former Clinton Administration official and charity executive as the best person to help the government absorb the impact of the sequester.


Burwell had long been considered the leading choice for the director's spot at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She served as deputy director of the OMB from 1998 to 2001 during the nation's last budget surplus under President Clinton.

"Sylvia knows her way around a budget," Obama said. "But as the granddaughter of Greek immigrants, she also understands that our goal when we put together a budget is not just to make the numbers add up. Our goal is also to reignite the true engine of economic growth in this country, and that is a strong and growing middle class; to offer ladders of opportunity for anybody willing to climb them."

Burwell will be returning to OMB after spending more than a decade leading two global philanthropic organizations, working the past two years at the Wal-Mart Foundation and 10 years prior to that with the Gates Foundation.

She also leads Wal-Mart's Women's Economic Empowerment Initiative.

The president said he believed that experience would help Burwell "blunt the impact of these [sequester] cuts on businesses and middle-class families" — while again scolding congressional Republicans over the across-the-board budget reductions. 

"Eventually a lot of people are gonna feel some pain. That's why we've got to keep on working to reduce our deficit in a balanced way, an approach that's supported by the majority of the American people, including a majority of Republicans," Obama said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill indicated Monday that they would be giving Burwell a tough look, with Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Ukraine's not the only outrage To understand death behind bars, we need more information White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, saying in a statement that in the president's first term "the budget office has failed to be honest time and again."

"This nation is in desperate need of strong and proven financial leadership and the OMB director is the primary person underneath the President charged with that task," Sessions said.

The ranking Republican used the occasion to again knock the Obama Administration for its delayed budget, which is now not expected to go to Capitol Hill before March 25.

"Amazingly, it appears the Administration will not provide a plan until after the House and Senate have produced theirs — not before, as the law requires. In so doing, the White House is protecting the Washington bureaucracy at the expense of workers and taxpayers," Sessions said.

The OMB job has been open since newly-appointed Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewHogan urges Mnuchin to reconsider delay of Harriet Tubman bill Mnuchin says new Harriet Tubman bill delayed until 2028 Overnight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint MORE, a close associate of Burwell, left to become the president's chief of staff in January last year.

If confirmed by the Senate, she would relieve Jeffery Zients, who has been heading up the office since Lew's departure more than a year ago.

Zients has been mentioned as a replacement for U.S Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and was effusively praised by the president for his time helming OMB.

"He's made our government more efficient. He's saved taxpayers a lot of money. ... So there's no question that Jeff's skill and versatility has served the American people very well. I expect it will continue to serve us well in the future," Obama said.

Burwell’s selection will also maintain diversity in the president’s second-term Cabinet.

Obama was criticized in January for choosing white men to replace outgoing Cabinet secretaries and filling other administration slots. He vowed that his choices, over time, would be diverse.

Last month, he tapped Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellNational parks pay the price for Trump's Independence Day spectacle Overnight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone MORE, the CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., to succeed Ken Salazar as secretary of the Interior. On Monday Obama will also announce the nomination of Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security MORE to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Burwell is originally from Hinton, W.Va. and was a Rhodes scholar at Harvard University.

- This story was updated at 10:18 a.m. and 11:22 a.m. on March 4.