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Washington Veteran Lew May Provide Air of Calm as Chief of Staff

Jack Lew, a government professional with experience on Capitol Hill, the State Department and the executive branch, is likely to bring a sense of calm to the White House engaged in a re-election campaign, analysts said.

Lew, 56, director of the Office of Management and Budget since November 2010, is being named by President Barack Obama as White House chief of staff to replace William Daley, who resigned after just a year.

“Jack’s economic advice has been invaluable, and he has my complete trust,” Obama said at the White House today in making the announcement.

Lew, who took over the budget agency in 2010 after a stint at the State Department, and who was Bill Clinton’s OMB chief, is in the middle of preparing a $3 trillion-plus budget to be released next month for the year that begins Oct. 1.

“He did a good job in settling down OMB after a turbulent couple of years” under the previous budget director, Peter Orszag, said Stan Collender, a budget expert and partner in the firm Qorvis Communications. “He’s very good with staff.”

“He’ll bring a sense of calm into the White House in the middle of the elections, in a period that’s typically turbulent,” Collender said.

Congressional Experience

Lew’s resume includes a stint as policy director for the late House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, a Massachusetts Democrat. Before returning to the White House in 2010, he served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief operating officer and, according to the agency’s website, her “alter ego.”

A graduate of Harvard University and Georgetown Law School, Lew’s experience also runs from academia, as chief operating officer at New York University for five years, to the private sector, as managing director of Citigroup Inc.’s Alternative Investments until January 2009 and COO of Citi’s Global Wealth Management before that.

When Obama nominated him for the budget post in July 2010 to replace Orszag, then-Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, called him “very smart, very capable.”

Along with Vice President Joe Biden, Lew was a key negotiator with Congress during last summer’s budget deal that led to a cap on federal government spending. He was in almost every closed-door meeting with lawmakers and at the White House.

Confirmation Hearing

Lew won praise during his confirmation hearing as director, with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota describing him as a administrator who “knows how to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions.”

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a Republican House leader, called Lew “pragmatic” and “well-qualified.”

The chief of staff is one of the most powerful positions in the White House outside the president, controlling the agenda, determining who sees the president and who doesn’t and setting the tone for the executive branch with lawmakers and the American electorate in re-election years.

The appointment isn’t subject to Senate confirmation.

Like his budget duties, Lew will have to balance staff and the issues competing for Obama’s attention while imposing discipline.

“He’ll be able to keep the government trains running on time,” Collender said.

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