WASHINGTON — The Senate Finance Committee Tuesday approved President Barack Obama’s choice of Jack Lew to be the next Treasury secretary, moving the nomination to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote that could come as soon as Wednesday.
The former White House chief of staff would succeed Timothy Geithner in Obama’s second-term cabinet.
Republicans were divided on the committee vote. Five opposed the nomination and six joined the committee’s 13 Democrats to support it.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, voted against Lew, citing lingering questions on his ties to Citigroup Inc.
During the confirmation hearing, Republicans scrutinized a nearly $1 million bonus Lew received as a top executive at Citigroup between 2006 and 2009, when the banking giant was being bailed out by the federal government. Lew told the committee that he was compensated for his work and he would leave it to others to judge.
The senators also questioned Lew on a $685,000 bonus he received after leaving his position as a New York University executive vice president in 2006.
“What we have seen so far is that Mr. Lew has been very good at getting compensated by taxpayer-supported institutions,” Grassley said.
Republican Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Mike Crapo of Idaho and John Cornyn of Texas joined Grassley in voting no.
Roberts said he voted against the nomination because he was concerned about attacks on corporate jet manufacturers by the administration, which has mentioned closing a tax loophole that benefits the industry.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the committee, said he voted in favor of Lew’s confirmation in deference to the president, but criticized the administration for its reluctance to answer questions about nominees.
“I believe that Mr. Lew has been less than forthcoming about his time at Citigroup and at NYU,” Hatch said. He said he will continue to discuss those concerns when the nomination comes to the Senate floor for a vote.
The other Republicans to vote in favor of Lew’s nomination were Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and John Thune of South Dakota.
If he is confirmed by the Senate. Lew would be the first Treasury secretary to take the job after being a president’s chief of staff since James A. Baker III served as Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff before becoming Treasury secretary in 1985.
Prior to serving as chief of staff, Lew served as Obama’s budget director, a position he also held during the Clinton administration. Lew began his government service in the 1980s as an aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
Although there is no floor vote scheduled, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it could come as early as Wednesday.