Obama picks new budget chief amid spending cuts


Tue, Mar 05, 2013 - Page 7

US President Barack Obama was to nominate Walmart Foundation head Sylvia Mathews Burwell yesterday to be his next budget chief, amid a sharp row with Republican lawmakers, officials said.

The announcement came after Obama signed US$85 billion in severe, across-the-board cuts in federal spending this year after failing to clinch an agreement with Republicans to solve the US’ deficit and debt problem.

A White House official said Obama was to announce Burwell as his choice to lead the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at 10:15am in the East Room of the presidential residence.

Burwell, who was deputy director of the budget office under former US president Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001, is an “expert on budgetary and domestic policy and brings a keen understanding of the budget process to this role,” the official said.

Burwell also served as deputy chief of staff to the president and chief of staff to the secretary of the US Treasury during the Clinton administration.

After her first stint in the federal administration, Burwell spent a decade working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and later joined the Walmart Foundation, the charitable giving arm of US retail giant Walmart.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Burwell would replace Jeffrey Zients, the office’s acting director since the departure of former head Jack Lew last year to serve as White House chief of staff.

Lew was confirmed on Wednesday last week as the new secretary of the US Treasury.

“Burwell’s deep knowledge of budget and economic issues, along with her record of fighting for working Americans, make her the perfect choice to lead the OMB at this important time,” the White House official said. “Her record proves that she knows how to cut wasteful spending in a smart way, while also making the investments needed to grow the economy, protect the middle class and promote prosperity for generations to come.”

The official said that Obama was “grateful” that Burwell had agreed to return to public service again in the senior post.