President Obama on Monday nominated Wal-Mart’s Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the Office of Management and Budget, a job which places her at the epicenter of the budget wars between the White House and Congress.
The OMB post has been vacant ever since Mr. Obama tapped the previous director, Jack Lew, as his second-term Treasury secretary in early January. And at first glance, the selection of Mrs. Burwell seemed an odd fit coming as she does directly from world’s largest retail chain, which liberals and leftists often deride for its labor policies.
But Mrs. Burwell headed up the Wal-Mart Foundation, the retailer’s philanthropic arm, a position she took after leading the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, so liberals appear to be looking past the Wal-Mart connection.
After her nomination Monday, the left barely whimpered about her Wal-Mart ties.
Slate’s Matthew Yglesias wrote at the end of his blog about her nomination, only that Wal-Mart’s charity is “not unrelated to Wal-Mart’s larger public relations efforts, and Wal-Mart is very much a company that tends to get embroiled in political controversy.”
Instead, he stressed her familiarity among Democratic circles; she served as deputy White House chief of staff, deputy OMB director and chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin during the Clinton administration.
Just last week, five Wisconsin women sued Wal-Mart, claiming the company denied them and other female employees equal pay and equal opportunities.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a national class-action suit against the company in 2011, citing a lack of convincing proof of company-wide pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
Monday’s nominations adds two women to the top layer of Mr. Obama’s Cabinet, helping to deflect charges that the first black president was failing to put together a diverse second-term team. The job is one of the toughest in the administration right now.
If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the point-woman helping Mr. Obama grapple with congressional Republicans over deficit reduction and debt limits with the $86 billion sequester that kicked in last Friday.
It remains to be seen whether Mrs. Burwell will be a tough negotiator with the mostly male leaders in control on Capitol Hill, but Mr. Obama believes she shares his belief in a “balanced” approach to deficit-reduction — a combination of additional tax increases and spending cuts.
Mr. Obama said Ms. Burwell not only knows “how to make the numbers add up,” but understands what it takes to “reignite the true engine of this economy and that’s a strong and growing middle class.”
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Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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