Executive Sessionby Former Senator Max Baucus
Posted on 2013-02-27
BAUCUS. Madam President, America's first Treasury Secretary,
Alexander Hamilton, once said:
The confidence of the people will easily be gained by a
good administration. This is the true touchstone.
Hamilton's words take on new prominence today as we task our next Treasury Secretary to gain the trust of the American people and restore confidence in our Nation's economy.
Nineteen of twenty-four Senators on the Senate Finance Committee voted yesterday on a bipartisan basis in favor of Jack Lew's nomination. Senators on both sides of the aisle spoke to his character and to his integrity. He is well qualified to be the Nation's next Treasury Secretary and will work to build the people's confidence and restore trust and certainty in both our government and in our economy. That will be his touchstone.
I am certainly not alone in supporting Mr. Lew for the crucial role as the administration's top adviser on economic policy. Yesterday's overwhelming support for Mr. Lew came after one of the most thorough reviews of any candidate for the position--a process that included hours of interviews with Mr. Lew, the examination of 6 years' of tax records, and more than 700 questions for the record.
In comparison, the committee asked Secretary Geithner 289 questions, Secretary Paulson 81 questions, and Secretary Snowe 75 questions. Mr. Lew has met personally with more than 40 Senators since being nominated for Treasury Secretary last month, answering questions and addressing any concerns. Throughout the confirmation process, Mr. Lew has been open and transparent. And, as I hope a vote in the Senate will soon show, he has gained the trust and the confidence of many in this Chamber.
Mr. Lew has a long and distinguished career focused on public service, with experience in both academia and on Wall Street. Most recently, he was the White House Chief of Staff. He has also served as Budget Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the current administration and under President Clinton, where, I will note, he helped guide our Nation through one of the greatest periods of economic growth in America's history.
Mr. Lew has also served in the U.S. Department of State as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. Mr. Lew has demonstrated time and again that he has the experience and knowledge to help get the Nation's economy back on track.
We need a strong man at the helm to help tackle the many fiscal challenges facing our Nation, and I believe Jack Lew is that man. Just 2 days from now, on March 1, across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester will hit. Madam President, $85 billion in Federal spending will be sliced from thousands of programs, including Medicare, rural development, and early education. The nonpartisan Congressional [[Page S893]] Budget Office predicts the cuts could slow the economic recovery and result in another year of sluggish growth and high unemployment.
I firmly believe we need to cut our debt and get our fiscal house in order. We know there are places to trim the fat. The American public knows that, certainly. But we need to take a scalpel to waste and inefficiency, not allow a hatchet to hack into American jobs.
Our economy will be put to the test again in just weeks when the continuing resolution expires on March 27. We face the threat of a government shutdown. And on the horizon, the Federal borrowing limit will be reached in late May. That will require another extension of the debt ceiling.
This is no way to run a country. Congress has been lurching from one fiscal showdown to the next, leaving the Nation with uncertainty. The only way we will be able to get past these budget battles is by working together. We all know that; we just have to start doing it--Republicans and Democrats, Members of the House and the Senate. We need to work together to put in place policies that create more jobs and spark economic growth.
It is deeds, not words. We have enough words about working together. We have to actually start performing the deeds and working together.
We will need to work with Mr. Lew and with the administration to put the Nation's economy back on track. We need to get off this roller coaster ride. It is like a yo-yo. There is no stability. There is no certainty. Going from one fiscal crisis to the next is undermining our economy.
To give families and businesses certainty, we must agree on a balanced comprehensive plan to cut the debt that includes both revenue and spending cuts. The math will not work any other way. A long-term balanced plan will bridge the budget battles and make real progress toward solving our deficit problem. A balanced plan will also encourage businesses to invest, enable investors to return to the markets with confidence and, most importantly, put Americans back to work in a growing economy. That is the bottom line, more jobs, more good-paying jobs. We need more certainty and predictability so businesses may hire, expand, and people are able to get those good-paying jobs.
Over the past 2 years I had a standing weekly call with Treasury Secretary Geithner. Every week we would go to the phone at 9:45 on Wednesdays, and about once a month we personally visited, would get together to go over issues. No matter where we were, what we were doing, we would always try to pick up the phone once a week to check in. I will tell you, it was on the minute, 9:45. Each of us knew the other was going to be there.
Secretary Geithner and I grew to become friends and trust each other. Our families started to have dinner together, do things together. It is that trust and confidence that is so necessary and which is necessary to work together to make things happen. The conversations proved invaluable as we worked to overcome numerous economic challenges.
I continue the outreach with Mr. Lew. I have been having a standing weekly call with him in anticipation he will soon be Treasury Secretary, and I am going to keep it up. I know he wants to also. It is very heartening, frankly. He has been very open and receptive and is eager to work with all of us here in the Congress to strengthen America's economy and create more jobs. He wants to do a good job. He knows he must talk with us and communicate with us in order to do that. Working together will be key to promoting economic growth and stability.
If confirmed by the Senate, one of Mr. Lew's first acts as Treasury Secretary will be affixing his signature to all new Federal Reserve notes. I am not sure if people will be able to read his loopy signature. It is an inside joke that sometimes people have a hard time reading his handwriting. His signature will be on the Federal Reserve notes, and that loopy signature is described as looking more like a scratched-out slinky than a name. That is Mr. Lew. That is the way he signs. Mr. Lew promised the President that if confirmed he will work to make at least one letter legible in order to not deface America's currency, and we will hold him to that promise.
In addition to the signature of America's Treasury Secretary, the front of every U.S. dollar bill has the seal of the United States Treasury. Look closely and you will see the symbols of balancing the scales to represent justice. There is a chevron containing 13 stars which represents the 13 original colonies. Underneath the emblem is a key which notes Treasury's official authority.
If confirmed, we will be trusting Mr. Lew with the authority to oversee America's financial system and economic policy. He will play a critical role in the upcoming debates on priorities and spending cuts. We will be relying on him to ensure our government and finances are sound. We will be asking him to work with us to return some stability and confidence to our economy. We will be asking him to work with us to ensure the United States remains a great world power in this competitive global economy. It is a great responsibility he has, one which I believe Mr. Lew will live up to.
Two hundred twenty-four years ago, this body, the U.S. Senate, approved the first Cabinet position for this young Nation when it unanimously approved Alexander Hamilton to become first Secretary of the Treasury. I ask my colleagues to confirm Mr. Lew today to be our Nation's 76th Treasury Secretary, to enable him to begin work helping to strengthen our economy.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.