Obama names Lew to succeed Geithner as Treasury secy

President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated his chief of staff, Jack Lew, as the next Treasury secretary, praising him as a expert on the pressing national issues of US government spending cuts and deficit reduction. If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Lew would succeed Timothy Geithner and take the lead on difficult negotiations with Congress on how to cut the nation's massive debt and rein in spending — a central challenge for Obama's second term.

Lew, a 57-year-old New Yorker who has previously served as White House budget chief, is likely to face tough questions from Republicans in his Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing after the bruising year-end battle over tax increases on the wealthy.

Obama described Lew as "a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras", and said the son of a Polish immigrant had a deep belief in public service. "Over the years, he's built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises," Obama said.

Since the Treasury secretary signs US currency, Obama teased Lew for his unusually loopy signature and joked that the nominee had promised "to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency".

Denis McDonough, Obama's deputy national security adviser, is considered the leading candidate to replace Lew as White House chief of staff.

Lew has experience in tough financial negotiations, having led talks with Congress in 2011 that brought a deal to avert a US debt default. A similar battle looms now.

As budget director for former President Bill Clinton, he presided over a string of budget surpluses between 1998 and 2000.

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