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.
On the most important question of our time, the unsustainability of our national debt course, Lew, as the President’s budget director, appeared before Congress and continued to insist that President Obama’s budget—which Lew had crafted—would not add to the debt of the United States. His original statement, to a national television audience, was as follows:
"Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt."
Nothing could be further from the truth. I have called it the greatest financial misrepresentation in history. His budget, according to his own OMB analysis, would have never produced over 10 years an annual deficit of less than $600 billion. Overall, as reported in the White House budget tables, the plan would have added $13 trillion to the gross debt by 2021—never putting us in a position to "bring down our national debt."
To "look the American people in the eye" and make such a statement remains the most direct and important false assertion during my entire time in Washington. He stuck to this position in his testimony—although Sec. Geithner before the Committee later did not—and the President continued to make this assertion even in the last months of the campaign. To confirm Mr. Lew would be to acquiesce in a policy of dishonesty to the American people.
Lew, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, has most recently served as Obama's White House chief of staff. If confirmed by the Senate, he will succeed Timothy Geithner at the Treasury Department.
Host Wolf Blitzer asked the Alabama senator if any of his fellow Republicans would be opposing Lew. "A number of our members have dealt with Mr. Lew in some of the negotiations," Sessions said. "And it has not been pleasant. There is a feeling he is not been a positive force." Sessions did not say whether or not he would filibuster Lew's nomination.
Sessions's fellow Republicans have been less forceful in their assessments of Lew's nomination. Utah senator Orrin Hatch, the ranking member on the Finance Committee, released a statement Thursday saying that "since Mr. Lew participated in numerous budget negotiations with Congress and with four consecutive years of over $1 trillion deficits, the American people deserve to know not only that this nominee is qualified for the job, but also what policies the White House supports to get federal spending under control."
John Cornyn of Texas, the number two Republican in the Senate, also released a statement: "Under Jack Lew’s leadership at the Office of Management and Budget, we saw trillion dollar deficits and no serious attempt to rein in spending. As President Obama's Chief of Staff, we've seen on-going dilatory tactics as the nation stares down one fiscal crisis after another. While Mr. Lew deserves a fair hearing, Texans deserve to hear the President’s plan for cutting spending and balancing our budget.”
But Sessions may have an unlikely ally in opposing Lew: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and who also sits on the Budget Committee. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reports that Sanders will not support Lew. Read the full statement from Sanders here.