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Senate confirms Lew as treasury secretary

Jack Lew testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 13.
Jack Lew testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 13.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images, file

The Senate has confirmed Jack Lew, a former budget director and chief of staff to the president, as the next secretary of the treasury.

The vote was 71 to 26.

Lew's critics said he failed to adequately explain why he received a hefty severance package when he voluntarily left his job as an executive vice president at New York University.

Lew left the school in 2006 to take a position at Citigroup Inc., a post that some said made him too cozy with big banks. 

But foes failed to muster enough opposition to prevent the wonky former Office of Management and Budget chief from ascending to the Treasury Department job -- one that sits at the center of debate over the nation's spending and debt.

By a vote of 19 to 5, the Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday to recommend Lew for a full Senate vote.

All five of the votes against him came from Republican committee members; six Republicans on the committee supported him.

Lew, a native of New York City, began his career in Washington in 1973 serving as a legislative aide. He went on to spend nine years as chief domestic policy adviser to House Speaker Tip O'Neill.

He most recently served as the president's chief of staff, a post he took in January 2012.

Lew accumulated minor Twitter fame for his cartoonishly illegible signature, which by law will appear on U.S. bills.

The president himself poked fun at Lew's penmanship upon making the nomination, saying that his pick had promised to make at least one letter of his signature legible "in order not to debase our currency."