The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday backed President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Treasury Jack Lew, despite some concerns about his perks from previous employers, and clearing the way for a confirmation vote in the full Senate.
The 19-5 vote saw about half of the panel’s 11 Republicans opposing Lew’s nomination, which could be brought to the Senate floor for a final vote as early as Wednesday.
Some Republicans hold deep reservations about the nomination and it is unclear whether they will throw up procedural hurdles to the vote. Nevertheless, Lew is expected to eventually win confirmation in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 53-45 majority.
Senate approval would pitch Lew into the heated budget battles between the White House and congressional Republicans. Both sides oppose the estimated $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts set to take effect on Friday, but disagree about alternatives.
Previously Obama’s chief of staff and budget director for both Obama and former President Bill Clinton, Lew is a policy wonk who has spent much of his career in public service in Washington. But some observers have questioned his financial expertise and international credentials.
The top Republican on the Finance Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch, said he supports Lew as head of the Treasury Department in deference to Obama, but has “serious reservations” about him.
“I hope we end up with the Jack Lew of the Clinton administration, not just another acolyte of the Obama White House,” he said before the panel vote.
At a hearing on his nomination earlier this month, Republicans also grilled Lew about an investment he once held in a fund linked to the Cayman Islands and a nearly $1 million dollar bonus he received from Citigroup in 2009 just before the bank got a taxpayer-funded bailout.
In addition, Senator Charles Grassley, the No. 2 Republican on the Finance Committee, has expressed concerns about several million dollars in loans Lew received while working as an executive with New York University.