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US President Barack Obama was expected to announce his nomination of White House chief of staff and budget expert Jack Lew as his next Treasury secretary on Thursday, a White House official said.
Lew, 57, will take the lead on difficult negotiations with Congress on how to cut the nation's looming debt and rein in spending - a central challenge in Obama's second term.
Lew is expected to be confirmed by the Senate. He will take over from Timothy Geithner, who was slated to attend Thursday's announcement, the White House official said.
Denis McDonough, Obama's deputy national security adviser, is the leading candidate to replace Lew as chief of staff.
Lew was budget director for Obama and for then-president Bill Clinton. He led 2011 talks with Congress that preceded that year's approval of an increase in the US debt ceiling.
"Over the past more than quarter of a century, Jack Lew has been an integral part of some of the most important budgetary, financial and fiscal agreements ... in Washington," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday, after reports broke that Lew would be Obama's choice.
Some analysts have questioned whether Lew has enough experience with international financial issues and on banking regulations.
But the White House highlighted international experience Lew gained during his time at the State Department, and his "strong relationships in the business community," having worked as a managing director at Citigroup Inc.
"His deep knowledge of domestic and international economic issues will enable him to take on the challenges facing our economy at home and abroad on Day One," the White House official said in a statement.
His nomination will come in a week in which Obama rounded out his second-term national security team, notably picking former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as the Democratic president's new defense secretary.
Another member of Obama's economic team, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, made clear on Wednesday that she will not be back for Obama's second term.
Obama praised the former US representative as a "tireless champion for working families" and said she had been a key member of his team in helping the economy recover from its worst recession since the 1930s.
Sources familiar with Lew's situation highlighted elements of his resume relevant to the tough situation he will inherit, with Obama and Republicans feuding over taxation, and spending crises coming to a head.
They noted that under Clinton, Lew was part of the team that negotiated a deal with a Republican Congress to balance the US federal budget, which created a surplus, in contrast to today's $1 trillion-plus deficit.
As head of the Office of Management and Budget, Lew led negotiations earlier in Obama's first term to cut spending with Republicans and helped frame deficit cutting plans. He has also served as deputy secretary of state and worked in the past on Capitol Hill. If confirmed by the Senate, Lew would take the helm as Obama is locked in a dispute with Republicans over demands to raise the current $16 trillion borrowing limit, without which Washington could default on its debt.
He would also face other clashes with congressional Republicans on huge automatic "fiscal cliff" spending cuts put off during a New Year's political crisis for two months but due to reach fruition again at the end of February.
Geithner had made it known that he did not want to serve a second term at Treasury. He is expected to leave by the end of this month.
The Treasury secretary had previously delayed his departure to help Obama maintain the economic recovery and to play a major role in the successful effort to avert the fiscal cliff budgetary crisis.
Obama will be under pressure to replace Solis and other outgoing members of his Cabinet with female candidates, following complaints that his selections so far have shown insufficient diversity.
White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted however on Wednesday that women were key players at the top of the president's inner circle, after a front-page photo in the New York Times ruffled the White House by showing Obama surrounded by male advisers.
"Women are well-represented in the president's senior staff here. Two of the three deputies, deputy chiefs of staff, are women. The White House counsel is a woman. A woman runs Homeland Security for this country, Secretary (Janet) Napolitano," Carney said.
(China Daily 01/11/2013 page11)