President Obama officially nominated White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew on Thursday to replace departing Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, calling his key aide a man of great integrity who has his “complete trust.”
Even though Mr. Lew’s move from running the White House to Treasury was long expected, Mr. Obama called the moment “bittersweet” because he was losing his guidance of day-to-day presidential operations.
“I trust his judgment; I value his friendship; I know very few people with greater integrity,” he said during a ceremony in the White House East Room.
Mr. Lew is a longtime Washington insider who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget for both Mr. Obama and President Clinton and also worked for then-House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. early in his career.
Mr. Geithner is returning to the private sector after serving four tumultuous years at the Treasury Department.
Known for his swift number-crunching and remaining calm under fire, Mr. Lew has supporters on both sides of the aisle.
But at least one prominent voice on the left said he would oppose Mr. Lew’s nomination because of his ties to Wall Street.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent and a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, said he was “extremely concerned” that many of the president’s advisers are too close to Wall Street.
At Citigroup, Mr. Lew was part of the senior internal management team, serving as managing director and chief operating officer of Citi Global Wealth Management and then as managing director and COO of Citi Alternative Investments.
Although Mr. Sanders called Mr. Lew “an extremely intelligent person” and applauded his many years of service to the country, he said he cannot support him.
“In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate American and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country,” Mr. Sanders said Thursday. “I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.”
The Lew nomination also is drawing opposition from some Republicans. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said he intends to oppose the nomination because he said Mr. Lew misled Congress about administration plans to reduce the national debt and so “must never be secretary of treasury.”
Two years ago, while serving as Mr. Obama’s budget director, Mr. Lew told Congress that the president’s budget would not add to the national debt. The government has run up trillion-dollar deficits each of the past four years.
But the Financial Services Forum, a trade association for CEOs of the largest banks, credit companies, insurance companies and organizations that manage money, praised Mr. Lew’s experience in both the public and private sectors.