Today’s Senate hearing on the confirmation of Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary isn’t attracting as much attention as those of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan. Nor is it likely that Republicans will have any more success in derailing his nomination than they did with the president’s national security picks. Nevertheless, the proceedings will afford Republicans plenty of opportunities to skewer both the Obama administration’s economic policies as well as give the nominee a hard time about his time leading a financial institution that got bailed out by the government after the 2008 fiscal meltdown. But the real focus on Lew today ought not to be on the slim chance that he will slip up in a way that will delay his confirmation. Rather, senators and the public should be zeroing in on the ominous similarity between something Lew said under oath in 2010 when he was White House Budget Director and a key point in the president’s State of the Union address last night.
Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in 2010, Lew pledged that the budget the president had put forward as an alternative to Republican plans “would not add to the debt.” If that sounds familiar this morning, it should. Last night during the SOTU, President Obama presented another laundry list of liberal projects that he said Congress must enact into law. But, he added, no one should worry about the cost since the left-wing wish list of “investments” would add “not a single dime” to the nation’s debt. Unfortunately for the president, a hard look at the facts about Lew’s testimony makes the president’s current pledge look like just another politician’s fib.
Republicans don’t seem to be retreating from the battle over Chuck Hagel. Senator James Inhofe, the new ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has added his name to the list of Republicans opposing the defense secretary nominee. The question is, how far will the party be willing to go on this fight? There are other nominations it has an interest in fighting, including Jack Lew for treasury secretary, John Kerry for secretary of state, and John Brennan for CIA chief. In the end, it will only be able to choose a couple to focus on.
The point of battling Lew wouldn’t necessarily be to prevent his confirmation outright, because there is no indication that Obama would choose someone preferable. But threatening a fight could help bring attention to policy differences between the GOP and the White House, and hold Lew accountable for his slippery relationship with the truth.
President Obama isn’t likely to have much trouble getting the Senate to confirm Jack Lew as his new treasury secretary. Though Senator Jeff Sessions has vowed to try and stop Lew, there is nothing in the nominee’s long record of service to Democratic presidents that would disqualify him for the office. Given the fight that is brewing over the nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan for the Department of Defense and the CIA, there is little appetite on the Hill for any further effort to deny the president his choice to run an important department.
But even though Lew will probably be easily confirmed, his nomination is one more signal that there may be no way to avoid more bitter and counter-productive confrontations with Congress over the budget. Lew is well known to be a hard-core progressive who, during the negotiations with Republicans over the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff, made it clear that he opposes any true reform of entitlement spending. Having run to the left and won re-election, President Obama is entitled to try and govern from the left. Lew’s selection illustrates that this is his intention. But though he may have a mandate to govern, that doesn’t give him the power to alter reality. If he isn’t prepared to start thinking about cutting spending, then no amount of rhetorical excess will prevent this country from going further down the road to insolvency.
As the White House scrambles to push back on the narrative that Obama’s cabinet lacks diversity, National Journal reports that there are few jobs left for potential female appointments (h/t HotAir):
Say Obama wants to make a grand gesture; what jobs are left? If he names a female labor secretary to succeed Solis, that will keep him at the status quo. But it’s not a top job and it’s one many women have held. Plus Solis is Hispanic, so now there’s that to worry about as well.
The only immediate opening with stature roughly equivalent to secretary of State, Defense, or Treasury is Lew’s job as White House chief of staff. To name a woman, Obama would have to throw top mentionees Ron Klain (former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden) and Denis McDonough (currently deputy national-security adviser) under the bus. He does have some logical female options, starting with Nancy-Ann DeParle and Alyssa Mastromonaco. Both now hold the title of deputy chief of staff.
Conservatives have been rightly disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling to uphold ObamaCare, but that disappointment has been all the more bitter because the case has been full of unpleasant surprises. Conservatives believed they had two objectives to get ObamaCare overturned: convince a majority of the justices there was no “limiting principle” to the individual mandate that would excuse it from setting precedent on the Commerce Clause, and convince Anthony Kennedy (the assumed swing vote) that because there was no limiting principle, the law could not survive an accurate reading of the Commerce Clause.
They did both, and yet still lost the case, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to elevate politics over jurisprudence. But now it’s time for Roberts to confront disappointment himself. Roberts believed he was doing two things by upholding ObamaCare: he was settling the issue of whether the mandate is a tax (it is), thus protecting the Commerce Clause, and he was preventing the further delegitimization of the Supreme Court by the Democrats, thus improving its general reputation. He failed on both counts.