Sessions: Jack Lew must "never" be Treasury secretary

President Obama officially nominated Jack Lew to replace Tim Geithner at the Treasury Department on Thursday afternoon, asserting his faith in Lew’s abilities to aid the rebuilding of the economy:

 At a midday news conference, Obama praised Lew, 57, as a “low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras” and hailed his reputation as “a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises.” …

“As the son of a Polish immigrant, a man of deep and devout faith, Jack knows that every number on a page, every dollar we budget, every decision we make has to be an expression of who we wish to be as a nation, our values, the values that say everybody gets a fair shot at opportunity,” Obama said.

Republican from Alabama and Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, does not agree.

Jack Lew must never be Secretary of the Treasury. His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies.

On the most important question of our time, the unsustainability of our national debt course, Lew, as the President’s budget director, appeared before Congress and continued to insist that President Obama’s budget—which Lew had crafted—would not add to the debt of the United States. His original statement, to a national television audience, was as follows:

‘Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.’

Nothing could be further from the truth. I have called it the greatest financial misrepresentation in history. His budget, according to his own OMB analysis, would have never produced over 10 years an annual deficit of less than $600 billion. Overall, as reported in the White House budget tables, the plan would have added $13 trillion to the gross debt by 2021—never putting us in a position to ‘bring down our national debt.’

To ‘look the American people in the eye’ and make such a statement remains the most direct and important false assertion during my entire time in Washington. He stuck to this position in his testimony—although Sec. Geithner before the Committee later did not—and the President continued to make this assertion even in the last months of the campaign. To confirm Mr. Lew would be to acquiesce in a policy of dishonesty to the American people.

Lew’s nomination doesn’t look like it’s going to face nearly the level of opposition that Hagel will face for the Defense post, but it doesn’t exactly look like President Obama is making any particular efforts to win bipartisanship points with non-controversial, agreeable picks, either. Lew’s reputation among some prominent Republicans precedes him, a factor that would most certainly rear its head in the upcoming mini-cliff standoffs:

Several Republicans said Tuesday they don’t view Lew as a man interested in hearing GOP concerns. One aide called him “tone deaf” in understanding the compromises that Republicans could accept during high-stakes talks.

“No matter what you’re proposing or no matter what compromise you’re trying to forge, he comes at it from a position of, ‘Whatever you want, I have to be against,’” the GOP aide said. “It doesn’t advantage him in the negotiation, he doesn’t get a different policy outcome than he would otherwise. It just irritates people. … It’s as much personality as anything else.” …

But with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner expected to leave his job by month’s end, a Lew confirmation fight could come in the middle of talks between the White House and Congress to raise the debt ceiling. The last time that happened, in 2011, Lew screamed at a Republican aide when the GOP floated the possibility of adding portions of Medicaid to the automatic cuts known as the sequester.