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Senate approves Lew for Treasury post by wide margin

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jacob Lew to be Treasury secretary, affirming President Obama’s choice of a budget expert at a time when Congress and the White House are at odds over sharp government spending cuts.

The vote was 71 to 26 to support the nomination. A total of 25 Republicans and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont voted against Lew’s confirmation.

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Lew, 57, had most recently served as Obama’s chief of staff. He succeeds Timothy Geithner, who completed a tumultuous four-year term in which he helped lead the administration’s response to the financial crisis and recession.

Lew is scheduled to be sworn in on Thursday. He will take over just one day before automatic spending cuts are set to take effect.

Lew began his government service in the 1980s as an aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. He brings nearly three decades of government service to the job, including two stints as White House budget director.

‘‘Mr. Lew is well qualified to be the nation’s next Treasury secretary,’’ said Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus of Montana.

But Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who opposed the nomination, said Lew as budget director was the architect of the Obama’s administration’s failed efforts to get soaring deficits under control.

Lew has advocated a balanced approach to reducing the long-term budget deficit through spending cuts and additional tax revenue.

Beyond the budget, Lew is expected to hew closely to the positions Geithner struck on Europe’s debt crisis, the US relationship with China, and the administration’s defense of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law that the banking industry has fought to weaken.

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