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Jacob Lew: Is 'safe' choice for Treasury also a good choice? (+video)

Jacob Lew is valued by Obama as a Beltway numbers guy able to endure high-stakes budget fights. But some critics worry he won't tackle fast-rising debt. And the Treasury job could demand big duties beyond fiscal strategizing.

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President Obama is nominating Jacob "Jack" Lew to be his next secretary of the Treasury, pushing to his administration's forefront a longtime veteran of Washington budget battles.

Mr. Lew knows the federal budget from top to bottom the way few do, even other Beltway insiders. That gives him high value to the Obama administration as it seeks to "win" epic contests, in the next few weeks and years, over the shape of big-ticket entitlement programs, other federal spending, and the US tax code.

He's widely viewed among Mr. Obama's fellow Democrats as a safe choice, a known quantity already on the administration's inside.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would succeed outgoing Secretary Timothy Geithner at at time when the nation faces growing pressure from financial markets to bring chronic federal budget deficits under control. Obama views Lew, who has already held prominent posts in the administration, as someone he can trust with this high-stakes job.

"Throughout his career, Jack Lew has proven a successful and effective advocate for middle class families who can build bipartisan consensus," a senior White House official said in a statement released Thursday morning, ahead of the president's planned announcement. The official noted that Lew has directed the Office of Management and Budget under both Obama and President Bill Clinton, "negotiating a historic agreement with Congress" in the 1990s and "leading the negotiations of the bipartisan Budget Control Act in 2011."

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