As chief of staff, Lew was a central player in two failed attempts at a grand bargain on deficit reduction with House Republicans. The first effort came as the government negotiated raising the debt ceiling in August 2011, and the second took place last month as the nation teetered on a “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts.
In both cases, Obama and congressional Republicans mostly put off big decisions on spending, setting the stage for another fight in the next two months over raising the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling again.
Lew served as Obama’s budget director from August 2010 until January 2012 when he replaced William Daley as White House chief of staff.
Prior to becoming budget director, Lew served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy secretary in charge of managing the operations of the State Department.
A staunch liberal and defender of entitlements programs, Lew prides himself on facilitating a deal between President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill on Social Security and on helping to craft a budget deal between President Clinton and a Republican Congress that led to years of budget surpluses. He served in the Clinton administration as budget director and deputy budget director.
Lew managed investments at Citigroup between his time in the Clinton and Obama administrations.