WASHINGTON — President Obama announced Thursday that he was nominating his chief of staff, Jacob L. Lew, to be his new Treasury secretary, assigning one of the top Cabinet roles to a longtime budget chief and former adviser to the late House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.
Lew, who would replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has served a number of roles in government over his three-decade career, including twice serving as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“One reason Jack has been so effective in this town is because he is a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras,” the president said during his White House announcement. “And over the years, he’s built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises.”
Obama also remarked about another quirk of Lew’s that is gaining new prominence: his signature, which will soon be on all newly printed currency if he is confirmed as treasury secretary, consists of a series of scrawled loops.
“I had never noticed Jack’s signature,” Obama said. “And when this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him.
The president added to laughter: “Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency.”
Lew got an early start in government working in the mid-1970s as a legislative aide to Representative Joe Moakley, the Massachusetts Democrat. After graduating from Harvard, Lew worked as deputy director of the Office of Program Analysis in Boston’s budget office.
Then he went to work for O’Neill, where he spent the next eight years, first as a domestic policy adviser and later as executive director of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
Lew’s confirmation will now go before the Senate, where some opposition is beginning to form. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, criticized Lew’s time working as a hedge fund manager at Citigroup.
“As a supporter of the president, I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street,” Sanders said in a statement. “In my view, we need a Treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.”
Minister removes self from inauguration ceremonies
WASHINGTON — The minister selected by President Obama to deliver the benediction at his inaugural this month has withdrawn from the program amid a storm of controversy over remarks he made about homosexuality in a sermon in the mid-1990s, according to an inaugural planner.
The minister, the Rev. Louie Giglio, founder of the Passion Conferences, an Atlanta organization that brings college students together in prayer and worship, withdrew Thursday, a day after the sermon came to light.
In it, Giglio called on fellow Christians to fight the ‘‘aggressive agenda’’ of the gay-rights movement and advocated ‘‘the healing power of Jesus’’ as ‘‘the only way out of a homosexual lifestyle’’ — a comment that some gay-rights advocates interpreted as an endorsement of so-called gay-to-straight conversion therapy as a supposed cure for homosexuality.
An official with Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee, which operates separately from the White House, vetted Giglio.
‘‘We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country,’’ said Addie Whisenant, spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. ‘‘Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combatting human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.’’
Obama to take oath using Bibles of Lincoln, King
WASHINGTON — President Obama is putting a symbolic twist on a time-honored tradition, taking the oath of office for his second term with his hand placed not on a single Bible but on two — one owned by Martin Luther King Jr. and one by Abraham Lincoln.
The inclusion of King’s Bible is particularly significant, since the inauguration comes on Jan. 21, the federal holiday in honor of the civil rights leader, who delivered his ‘‘I Have a Dream’’ speech 50 years ago at the Lincoln Memorial. Obama will be facing the memorial as he takes the oath. King’s Bible, which his children say he used early in his career as a preacher, has never been part of a presidential inauguration.