The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Jack Lew as the new Treasury Department secretary, giving President Obama his second nomination victory this week as the White House seeks to build its second-term team.
The 71-25 vote sends Mr. Lew, a longtime Washington aide who had been Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, to fill the government’s top financial post at a time when the economy is still struggling.
His nomination cleared far more easily than that of Chuck Hagel, who had to overcome a weekslong Republican filibuster to win confirmation on Tuesday. Mr. Lew, meanwhile, won the support of 20 Republicans en route to confirmation.
“At this critical time for our economy and our country, there is no one more qualified for this position than Jack,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the vote. “His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington.”
Lawmakers had grilled Mr. Lew over his time as a Wall Street executive after he worked as President Clinton’s budget director in the 1990s and before he returned to serve in the Obama White House.
“The Senate does not have answers to very basic and factual questions about Mr. Lew,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.
And Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, accused Mr. Lew of having been inept at managing the U.S. budget as deficits topped $1 trillion every year Mr. Obama has been in office.
Mr. Lew becomes the third Cabinet secretary to be approved at the beginning of Mr. Obama’s second term, following John F. Kerry, who was overwhelmingly approved to head the State Department, and Mr. Hagel, who narrowly won approval for the Pentagon’s top civilian post.
Mr. Lew takes over for Timothy F. Geithner, who headed the Treasury for the president’s first term, and Mr. Lew will immediately face many of the same issues such as looming spending cuts, ballooning federal debt and a reluctance among some in Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling.
Mr. Geithner repeatedly had to turn to extraordinary measures to keep the government from defaulting or suspending payments, and Mr. Lew could face the same situation in May, when the current debt ceiling deal expires.