WASHINGTON — The to-do list that awaits Jacob Lew, President Barack Obama's choice to be Treasury secretary, is daunting.
Bridge disputes in Congress on taxes and spending. Shrink budget deficits. Manage tense economic ties with China. Press Europe to reduce debts while fighting a recession. Defend the U.S. financial overhaul law. Prevent a global currency war.
And those are just the obvious challenges.
Lew's job isn't quite as perilous as the one that greeted the now-departed Timothy Geithner four years ago. As Treasury secretary, Geithner had to help stabilize a teetering U.S. banking system after the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and help lift the economy out of a deep recession.
The economy and banking system are far healthier now. But if the Senate backs Lew's nomination after a committee hearing today, he will likely have to marshal all his strengths as a budget specialist and perhaps overcome inexperience in some areas to achieve significant success.
The federal budget is sure to preoccupy Lew's early weeks, and it's also likely to dominate his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Republicans are expected to use the hearing to stress their differences with the administration over deficits and taxes.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the panel's top Republican, said he would press Lew on what kind of plan the Obama administration has to confront our skyrocketing debt and our broken entitlement programs.
After today's hearing, committee members will have two days to send questions to Lew to answer before they vote. The full Senate could vote on the nomination late this month.