President Obama has painted a bleak portrait of cooperation in Washington in several recent speeches, charging that Republicans say "no to every proposal that we know could make a difference in the lives of hardworking Americans," and that "Washington doesn’t work" because we have a "party on the other side that has been captured by an ideology that says no to everything." However, in a commencement address at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, the president's treasury secretary, Jack Lew, said that he believes "the pendulum is swinging back to getting things done in a bipartisan way" based on the last six months' deals on the budget, the farm bill, and the debt limit:
Now, some may say that bipartisanship is the currency of a bygone era. That we cannot come together to take on the broad, deep-rooted problems we face today. But I disagree. I have watched men and women of conviction reach across the aisle to secure honorable compromises my entire career. I have been a part of almost every major bipartisan budget agreement over the last 30 years. And I am optimistic that the things that divide us are not as intractable as they look.
Consider the last six months -- a two year budget deal, agreement to avoid a crisis over the debt limit and a farm bill all suggest that the pendulum is swinging back to getting things done in a bipartisan way. And I believe that on issues like education, infrastructure and immigration reform -- the same will be true.
Oddly, the very next example of getting things done cited by Lew in his speech was Obamacare, which passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote:
If we need evidence that our country can still accomplish big things -- one need only consider health care reform. It took nearly a century for Congress and the President to come together to pass legislation that would expand coverage and change the system. But despite the odds, the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, and now millions of Americans who were once denied coverage—including students and new graduates—have health insurance and can get the vital medical care they deserve.
While Lew struck a generally optimistic tone throughout his address, he noted that the divisions in Washington also extended to the country at large, asserting that it's "actually unusual these days for a Democrat to live next door to a Republican":
We live in a polarized time, where people who think differently often do not come into contact with each other. This is not just about the media -- where the rough texture of nuance is smoothed away while ideologically-driven web sites, cable TV, and bloggers cater to narrow audiences in closed echo chambers. We are also at a point where even neighborhoods are partisan bubbles. It is actually unusual these days for a Democrat to live next door to a Republican.
Lew encouraged the public policy graduates to find ways to "break down those walls" and "work with those who hold different views to fashion honorable compromises that will move our country forward," for "as fragile and fractured as political discourse sometimes seems, we are bound together by the same enduring beliefs."
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew refused to say on national TV this morning whether the politically appointed counsel of the IRS, William Wilkins, has been asked about his participation in the federal agency's scandal:
"Chris, I am leaving the investigation to the proper people who do investigations," said Lew. "I don't think it's appropriate for me to do the investigation."
President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, Jack Lew, the current treasury secretary, said today at a Capitol Hill hearing that he was aware "questions had been raised" about the IRS when he was at the White House:
"I was not aware of this audit until I met with the inspector general on March 15, 2013," Lew says.
A senator follows-up, "Had you heard of anything at the White House regarding -- "
Treasury secretary Jack Lew asked Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, to resign his post in response to the reports that the IRS had unfairly singled out conservative non-profit groups for close scrutiny. Miller has resigned, President Barack Obama said in a speech Wednesday night. The New York Times has more:
Jack Lew, who has been nominated as the next treasury secretary, oversaw up as many as a hundred Cayman Island investments when he worked at Citi Bank as chief operating officer of the alternative investment services unit, SEC disclosures reveal. It has previously been reported that Lew himself had been invested in a fund that was based in the Cayman Islands.
There weren't many memorable lines in President Obama's State of the Union speech. Indeed, only one leapt out at me: "As long as I’m commander in chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad."
In a premature celebration of Chuck Hagel's nomination being voted out of committee, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon last night. At 1:48 a.m., the White House put out a "Statement by the President" denouncing the test. One understands such statements are staff-written. But presumably President Obama stayed up late or was awakened to review personally a statement put out in his name on a serious foreign policy matter.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama called Cayman Island investments "the biggest tax scam on record." Now, in 2013, President Obama has nominated Jack Lew, who had $56,000 in Cayman Island investments, to be the next secretary of Treasury.
It’s an old basketball adage that teams that apply a full-court press don’t like to be pressed themselves. They like to force the action, not have it forced on them. In a similar vein, those who seek to centralized power by spearheading the passage of new federal laws generally don’t like to obey those laws themselves. Laws are something for other people to dutifully obey — less important people.
Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, says he will oppose Barack Obama's nomination of Jacob Lew for Treasury secretary. " Sessions released a statement Thursday afternoon criticizing Lew's nomination. Here's an excerpt:
Jack Lew must never be Secretary of the Treasury. His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies.
By choosing White House chief of staff Jacob Lew as his new treasury secretary, President Obama is bracing himself to battle congressional Republicans in 2013, not seeking bipartisan compromises with them. If confirmed, Lew would succeed Tim Geithner in the treasury job.