Senator Chuck Grassley announced this morning that he will vote against confirming Jacob "Jack" Lew, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary. In a statement I’ve posted below, Grassley explained his reasons. They relate to Lew’s actions and compensation while he worked at New York University, not his government work during Obama’s first term as director of the Office of Management and Budget and later chief of the president’s staff. Grassley’s objections look reasonable to me, although I have to laugh when Republicans who supported Mitt Romney for president object to Lew’s Cayman Islands investments.
Grassley also plans to oppose two other presidential nominees: William B. Schultz as general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services and Christopher J. Meade for general counsel at Treasury. The statement below explains his reasons. Grassley has substantive grounds for opposing Meade, but Schultz looks like a victim of other beefs between the senator and the HHS department.
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Grassley Opposes Three Nominees, Cites Concerns Over Lacking Information,
Agency Responsiveness to Congress
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today opposed three nominees in the Finance Committee, citing concern over a lack of answers about key pieces of information and agency responsiveness to Congress. Grassley voted against Jacob J. Lew to be Secretary of the Treasury; William B. Schultz to be General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Christopher J. Meade to be General Counsel for the Department of the Treasury.
Grassley’s statement on each nominee follows here.
Statement on Jacob J. Lew to be Secretary of the Treasury
First, I am concerned by the attitude of this Administration and its supporters who criticize the Senate, usually anonymously, for exercising basic due diligence regarding this nominee. They don’t like anyone questioning them, and they don’t like answering questions. Despite their tactics we must continue to perform the Senate’s vital role of advice and consent regarding nominees.
What we have seen so far is that Mr. Lew was very good at getting paid by taxpayer-supported institutions. Citigroup received a taxpayer-funded bailout and gave Mr. Lew a piece of it on his way out the door.
Tax-exempt New York University paid Mr. Lew an over $900,000 salary, paid his mortgage, and paid him a substantial $685,000 severance payment. The reason for the severance payment is still unclear. The amount was first reported in a New York Times article which calls it “unusual.” This must be further examined. It’s a shame that Mr. Lew failed to provide these details as part of his confirmation process, leaving us to rely on the press to dig out the details.
Mr. Lew’s eagerness and skill in obtaining bonuses, severance payments, and perks raise questions about whether he appreciates who pays the bills. As the Wall Street Journal said last week in reference to Mr. Lew’s past: “Investor in a Cayman Islands tax haven? Check. Recipient of a bonus and corporate jet rides underwritten by taxpayers at a bailed-out bank? Check. Executive at a university that accepted student-loan “kickbacks” for steering kids toward a favored bank? Check. Excessive compensation with minimal disclosure? Check.”
In fact, when asked basic questions like: What interest rate did you pay on your $1.4 million mortgage, Mr. Lew could not remember. That answer doesn’t pass the laugh test.
When asked about communications with Citigroup regarding student loan kickbacks, he responded that he couldn’t remember any.
Then, he and the Administration made it clear that they had no intention of providing documents that might refresh his recollection and shed light on whether he was involved with those kickbacks.
Clearly, these questions don’t matter to them because they think they have the votes. But transparency and sunlight are essential for Congress and for the American people. If Mr. Lew will not answer our questions now, why should we expect him to answer any questions if he is confirmed? That is unacceptable, and for these reasons I will vote no on his nomination.
Statement on William B. Schultz to be General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services
I would like to express my opposition to moving forward with Bill Schultz as the General Counsel for the Health and Human Services Administration. My objection is due to the agency’s refusal to respond to my oversight requests. It is not based on Mr. Shultz’s qualifications or ability to do the job. I have met with Mr. Schultz and believe him to be fair and hard-working.
I appreciate that HHS is trying to address my concerns. However, as I mentioned to him during his nomination hearing, I have many unanswered letters and document requests pending with HHS.
· I have received no response to my December 6, 2011, letter eliminating the age restriction on Plan B.
· I received virtually none of the documents that Chairman Issa and I requested regarding the monitoring of FDA employees.
This is unacceptable. Until I receive answers to my letters and document requests, I am hesitant to agree to any movement on this nomination.
Statement on Christopher J. Meade to be General Counsel for the Department of the Treasury
The most important role a Department General Counsel plays is in the interpretation of statutes passed by Congress. In a letter to me on December 31, 2012, Mr. Meade appears to interpret the Treasury Department’s responsibilities to share information with Congress regarding CFIUS transactions counter to the language in the statute. I wrote Mr. Meade a letter asking him to clarify his views. I look forward to Mr. Meade’s response, but until then, given my concerns, I will vote no.