President Barack Obama has claimed that the “low-key” approach of his new Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, will help America make progress in reducing its more than $16 trillion (£10 trillion) of debt.
Mr Lew was officially nominated on Thursday by Mr Obama to replace Tim Geithner, who is stepping down after four years in the job.
“One reason Jack has been so effective in Washington is that he is a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policymakers rather than television cameras,” Mr Obama said.
Although the 57-year-old’s nomination is expected to be supported by the Senate, Mr Lew, who had a spell running the budget division at the White House, quickly came under fire from Republican critics.
“This man has been the architect of the Obama budget policy and I think it’s fundamentally wrong,” said Jeff Sessions, a Senator from Alabama who intends to vote against the nomination.
After what could prove a bruising confirmation by the Senate in the coming weeks, Mr Lew will be at the heart of negotiations between the White House and Republicans in Congress on how to raise America’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. The US government reached its legal borrowing limit on New Year’s Eve and is currently using extraordinary measures to meet its bills without borrowing any more.
Republicans are expected to demand deep cuts in public spending in exchange for raising the debt ceiling towards the end of February.
Mr Lew, who is currently chief of staff at the White House, also served as the budget director under President Bill Clinton. Mr Obama paid tribute to the outgoing Mr Geithner as someone who embodied a popular saying at the Treasury Department that there is no room for “peacocks, jerks and whiners”.
Mr Geithner said that the world’s biggest economy still faced many challenges.