Obama picks adviser to cut deficit

WASHINGTON — President Obama yesterday tapped veteran adviser Jacob “Jack’’ Lew, former staffer to Bay State lawmakers, to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Lew, who worked for Representative Joseph Moakley and former House speaker Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill in the 1970s and ’80s, has a long record of public service, serving as both deputy director and director of OMB during the Clinton administration.

The 54-year-old Lew is currently a top aide to another Clinton — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — and would replace outgoing OMB director Peter Orszag.

“I was actually worried that Hillary would not let him go,’’ Obama said in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House yesterday, introducing Lew. “I had to trade a number of No. 1 draft picks to get Jack back at OMB.’’

When he worked for Bill Clinton, Lew presided over a substantial budget surplus.

If he goes back to his old job, Lew will have to wrangle with the biggest budget deficit in history, forcing him to look for more cuts and revenues to reach the president’s ultimate goal of a reduced deficit.

“Jack’s challenge over the next few years is to use his extraordinary skill and experience to cut down that deficit and put our nation back on a fiscally responsible path. And I have the utmost faith in his ability to achieve this goal as a central member of our economic team,’’ Obama said.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, called Lew “a superb choice’’ and a person of “the highest integrity.’’

“He knows how to make the tough choices. And he knows how to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions,’’ Conrad said.

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