Jack Lew is reportedly the strong favorite to be named the next treasury secretary and President Obama may announce the pick before the end of the week.
Lew, an Orthodox Jew who now serves as White House chief of staff, would replace Timothy Geithner at Treasury, Bloomberg News reported.
Lew, who lives in the Bronx and in Washington D.C., has previously served as budget czar, a position that might make him an attractive choice given the fiscal fights that loom between the White House and Congressional Republicans.
Giving the post to Lew might also be seen as placating Jewish supporters who were unhappy with Obama’s pick of Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief.
Lew has been a strong and effective voice for Obama in communicating with Jewish leaders and helped defuse a growing controversy over Hagel, who has been accused of being a less-than-wholehearted supporter of Israel.
Lew’s first order of business will be to urge Congress to raise the debt ceiling, which must be done by mid-February for the U.S. to continue to be able to borrow money to pay its bills.
Lew is known as a skilled negotiator who played a major role in both the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff and in negotiating with Republicans in the 2011 debt-ceiling talks.
A former aide to the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Lew, 57, has experience on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. He’s spent most of his career in government, with a brief detour to Wall Street, where he worked as a managing director for Citigroup.
He is also an observant Jew who does not work on Shabbat, except in the most extreme emergencies. He told the Forward that Obama often reminds him of the need to leave the White House on Friday afternoons, especially during the cold-weather months when the sun sets early.