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Obama Continues Cabinet Reshuffle, Taps Lew for Treasury

Jack Lew and President Obama; photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

President Obama speaks with Chief of Staff Jack Lew during a visit to Mexico in June 2012. Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

As budget director, Jack Lew served as one of the Obama administration’s key negotiators during the fight over raising the debt ceiling in 2011.

As White House chief of staff, he worked behind the scenes to broker an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff at the end of last year.

And with a series of fiscal hurdles ahead in 2013, President Obama has chosen Lew to head the Treasury Department.

The latest move in Mr. Obama’s second term Cabinet reshuffle will be announced at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday, formalizing what the White House has signaled for months and with little in the way of public opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill so far.

A White House official told the Morning Line that Lew was chosen to replace Tim Geithner because he “will bring an impressive record of service in both the public and private sectors for over three decades and economic expertise to this important role, and his deep knowledge of domestic and international economic issues will enable him to take on the challenges facing our economy at home and abroad on day one.”

The Lew backgrounder highlights that he has worked for “middle class families” along with “tackling some of the toughest domestic and international economic challenges facing our nation in decades.”

Lew led the Office of Management and Budget under both President Clinton and Mr. Obama. He also managed the State Department’s international economic policy portfolio.

Mr. Obama is also expected to note Lew’s business background at Citi Global Wealth Management and Citi Alternative Investments, as well as his tenure as chief operating officer at New York University.

Geithner will join Mr. Obama and Lew for the announcement Thursday.

Over the course of Mr. Obama’s first term, Geithner has been vilified for his handling of the nation’s challenges, and Republicans were calling for him to be fired before they even took over control of the House.

Two months into his presidency, Mr. Obama was forced to defend Geithner’s handling of the bonus payouts for bailout recipient AIG (still in the news today!).

“There has never been a secretary of the treasury, except maybe Alexander Hamilton, right after the Revolutionary War, who’s had to deal with the multiplicity of issues that Secretary Geithner is having to deal with all at the same time,” Mr. Obama told reporters in March 2009.

The markets showed little movement when Lew’s anticipated appointment was widely reported this week. (In November 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went up up nearly 500 points when news leaked that President-elect Obama would appoint Geithner.)

Watch Jeffrey Brown’s interview with Geithner in May and extended excerpts.

In another Cabinet change, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her departure Wednesday.

Her resignation, combined with that of Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s impending departure, has renewed the debate over racial and gender diversity in Mr. Obama’s second-term Cabinet.

With the selection of Lew for treasury, Mr. Obama’s last four Cabinet nominees have been white men, with John Kerry chosen for secretary of state, Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and John Brennan for CIA director.

Sticking around, at least for now, are Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

GUN CONTROL EFFORTS CONTINUE

Vice President Biden’s day looks to be an interesting one, with a 1:45 p.m. ET meeting with the National Rifle Association and other gun owners’ groups as the highlight.

In a separate forum, Biden will huddle with advocates for sportsmen and women and wildlife interest groups, along with Holder, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Biden, Holder and Sebelius will talk with representatives from the entertainment industry Thursday evening. (The Hill’s Jennifer Martinez has more on those meetings.)

On Wednesday, Biden met with gun control advocates, families impacted by gun violence and faith leaders. During the brief period reporters were allowed in the room, he emphasized that the White House has determined “executive action can be taken” should Congress not act on Mr. Obama’s proposals.

“I want to make clear that we’re not going to get caught up in the notion that, unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing,” Biden said, according to a pool report. “The president is going to act.”

After the meeting, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement that there is “a powerful consensus building in this country” following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

“We are having the conversation the American public wants us to have. Conversations are needed regarding assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and changing social norms, as well as, the very important need for comprehensive background checks – supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members,” he said.

Rev. Michael McBride, leader of the PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign, asked Biden to keep after gun violence in inner cities and said a reasonable agreement can be forged with a focus on value and morality.

“I told the vice president how we need to include as a central part of this conversation solutions to urban gun violence to unite Americans who all share the pain caused by guns,” McBride said in a statement after the meeting. “Faith leaders have a critical role to play in reducing gun violence in America, especially in our urban cities. As the vice president said, clergy needs to appeal to all Americans and lift our moral voice if we are to succeed in finally passing laws that reduce gun violence.”

Biden also talked via conference call with 15 governors and a host of local elected officials and mayors of big cities. The White House said the calls were intended to solicit new ideas. Among the Republican governors on the call were Jan Brewer of Arizona, Phil Bryant of Mississippi, Gary Herbert of Utah, John Kasich of Ohio, Sean Parnell of Alaska, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.

Before the debate shifts to Capitol Hill (the Washington Post lists five senators to watch on the gun control issue), advocates are keeping up the pressure.

Former President Clinton weighed in Wednesday during a speech in Las Vegas.

“I grew up in this hunting culture, but this is nuts,” Clinton said at the International Consumer Electronics Show, according to Politico. From the story:

“Why does anybody need a … 30-round clip for a gun?” said Clinton, who in 1994 signed the assault weapons ban into law. It lapsed a decade later.

“Why does anybody need one of those things that carries 100 bullets? The guy in Colorado had one of those,” said Clinton, referring to the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., last year. “Half of all mass killings in the U.S. occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005.”

“So, I hope that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and other people who have stepped up after the Newtown tragedy will have some impact on this,” said Clinton, in some of his most extensive public comments since the horrific Dec. 14 attack in Connecticut claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

Biden has a quick turnaround time for getting recommendations to Mr. Obama before he delivers the State of the Union address, which is still waiting to be scheduled.

LINE ITEMS

  • New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose previews what a dollar bill with Lew’s signature could look like if the chief of staff is elevated to the treasury post.

  • Among the “Six Things You Didn’t Know” about Lew: He eats a cheese sandwich and an apple at his desk for lunch.

  • The National Journal’s Michael Catalini notes that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., isn’t drawing much early Republican opposition in his 2014 re-election bid.

  • Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner scoops: “A top aide to Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., has been distributing anti-Chuck Hagel emails to a large, undisclosed listserv of staffers — including Democrats — beginning as early as Dec. 20, according to the more than a dozen emails obtained by CQ Roll Call.”

  • Is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gun control push about 2016? The Democrat devoted his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon to the topic.

  • As North Carolina Republicans mount a new push for a voter ID law, a study showed that 613,000 voters, about 9.25 percent of all registered voters in North Carolina, lack state-issued photo identification, the Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly reports.

  • The Root’s Jenee Desmond-Harris looks at how Mr. Obama will address education reform in his second term.

  • Mr. Obama will take the oath of office with two Bibles, a copy with gilded edges and covered in burgundy velvet that belonged to Abraham Lincoln and a King James Bible covered in black leather that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled with as a pastor in Montgomery, Ala., reports the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein. King used the Bible for inspiration and for preparing sermons and speeches and when he served at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, she writes. Biden will take the oath of office with a five-inch-thick Bible adorned with a Celtic cross that has been in his family since 1893.

  • Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor will perform at the inauguration.

  • The headline of this BuzzFeed story says it all: DC Sex Workers Prepare for Huge Influx of Inauguration Partiers.

  • Thursday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA is a slide show looking at the safety of pipelines delivering the nation’s energy.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • It’s a new year, and the Supreme Court is ramping up its activity. National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle joined the NewsHour on Wednesday to detail arguments in a case about whether police can test blood alcohol level without a warrant. Watch the segment here or below.


  • Judy Woodruff hosted a segment discussing proposed troop levels in Afghanistan.

  • We examined the flu outbreak.

  • Don’t miss Ray Suarez’s report on how robots can help people with special needs.

  • Gwen Ifill looked at teen suicide rates, as a new study showed that 1-in-8 American teens has had suicidal thoughts and 1-in-25 has attempted suicide.

TOP TWEETS

Katelyn Polantz and Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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