Jack Lew’s Opening Remarks


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, ranking member Hatch and members of the committee. It is a real privilege to be considered by this committee as the president’s nominee to be secretary of the treasury. I would like to thank Senator Schumer and Senator Domenici for their gracious and kind introductions. It has been my great fortune to work with them both many years and I am honored they were here this morning. I am especially thankful to my family, my wife and daughter that are here, my son Danny, my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren. As you noted, public life demands much from our families and I deeply appreciate the support and sacrifice over many years of long days and missed family time. While my parents are only with my in spirit, I sit here because they nurtured in me lasting values and enduring commitment to serve our country. I am grateful to President Obama for asking me to lead the Treasury Department. It has been my honor to serve in his cabinet and as chief of staff and humbled by his continued faith in me. Finally, I thank the members of this committee for meeting with me in the last weeks and sharing your in sights.

This committee places a singular role in tax, health care, trade and social security policies. With a long history of collaboration, this committee is a clear example that bipartisanship can thrive and produce real results for all Americans. I pledge if confirmed, I will maintain frequent consultation with you in accordance with that spirit of respect. Forging bipartisan consensus is not an abstract idea for me; it is the fundamental thread that spans my professional life. Early in my career when I worked for the great Speaker O’Neill Jr. I took part in negotiations that led to the historic agreement with President Reagan to save social security. Under president Clinton, helped negotiate that to balance the federal budget. As budget director, oversaw three budget surpluses in a row.

My experience in leadership positions outside government at New York University, where I might add the highest honor the University has, the Galeton award, who also founded NYU, largest private university in the United States, and it has proven that working collaboratively to solve problems and drive change is a universal challenge. With my return to public service in this administration, I worked alongside secretary Clinton to promote national security and international economic policies around the globe and to reinvigorate America’s leadership abroad. At the office of management and budget, I pursued sound fiscal policy working with democrats and republicans to pass the Budget Control Act which has reduced federal discretionary spending to historically low levels. Finally, as White House chief of staff, I adhered to the principle we best serve the American people when we find common ground to move the country forward. We saw that recently when the administration and congress acted together to protect the middle class from sweeping tax increases that could have thrown the economy back into recession. Because of my experience, I approach challenges that lie ahead with a clear understanding of their complexity and significance. It has given me profound respect for Secretary Geithner and men and women of the treasury department whose remarkable record of accomplishment I would like to acknowledge today.

When president Obama came into office, economic conditions were the worst our nation had seen since the great depression. The president moved quickly to break the back of the financial crisis, reignite growth, and because he along with congress responded with great speed and force, the economy is in better shape today. Over the past four years, private sector created more than 6 million new jobs, taxpayer money that saved the financial system has been mostly repaid. Rules are in place so the financial system is safer and taxpayers are not responsible if a big firm fails again. The housing market is recovering and home values are stabilizing. We’ve isolated Iran from the global financial system and established the toughest sanction regime in history. We signed a series of trade agreements to open new markets for American goods and level the playing field for American workers and businesses. Our auto companies are once again growing, innovating, creating jobs. And we made substantial progress reducing the deficit in a balanced way. So we are in better position today. But the work to create a sounder economy and safer world remains unfinished. Top priority is to strengthen recovery by — that means making it easier to sell American made goods abroad, expand manufacturing in the United States. It means working with our partners around the globe through G20 to bolster the financial system and promote global economic stability. It means moving forward on financial reform so the system is less vulnerable to crisis with greater protections for investors and consumers and reforming the tax system so American businesses can thrive and compete.

At the same time, we must put our nation back on a path of fiscal sustainability. Over the past two years, locked in $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and revenue increases and we can do even more to shrink that deficit in the next decade through a balanced mix of spending reductions and tax reforms, and sensible reforms to Medicare that will help the program stay sound in the future. Even as we move forward with deficit reduction, we need to make certain there’s room for critical investment in education, research, and infrastructure, things we need to grow and compete globally. Also have to avoid doing anything to degrade national security or derail economic recovery through abrupt moves in the short term. We can’t allow series of automatic spending cuts known as sequester to go into effect. These would impose self-inflicted wounds to the recovery, put far too many jobs and businesses at risk.

In closing, I would like to make a final observation. In recent years, some argued Washington is broken, our government can’t tackle the nation’s most serious problems and that bipartisanship is a thing of the past. I disagree. I reached across the aisle to forge honorable compromises my entire professional life. I have been involved in almost every major bipartisan budget agreement in the last 30 years and I can honestly say the things that divide Washington now are not as insurmountable as they look. We all share the same goals. We want an economy that’s expanding, want a private sector that’s robust. We want a vibrant job market that gives anyone that works hard the chance to get ahead. We want a financial system that helps families save and channels investment for entrepreneurs. We want a strong housing market. We want a global economy that’s prosperous, inclusive, and secure. We want a vigorous manufacturing base and level playing field for American companies. And we want a government that lives within its means. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to achieve these goals. We have plenty of obstacles. I have no doubt we will work to find solutions to today’s challenges. Mr. chairman and members of the committee, I am grateful to you for considering my nomination and I look forward to answering any questions you have.