The Lew-down

Republicans signal trouble for Lew’s confirmation this week

‘Jack Lew is an Iran sympathizer who has no business being our ambassador,’ Sen. Tom Cotton said on ‘Fox News Sunday’

Alex Wong/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: U.S. Ambassador to Israel nominee and former Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew attends a portrait unveiling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department on September 26, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Republican senators are signaling that, despite the unfolding crisis in Israel, they don’t plan to give former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the administration’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, an easy path to confirmation.

Following the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Lew’s confirmation process was fast-tracked, with a confirmation hearing scheduled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. Democrats are reportedly hoping to finalize his confirmation shortly after the hearing.

“Jack Lew is an Iran sympathizer who has no business being our ambassador,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s bad for the United States, it’s bad for Israel to have an Iran sympathizer as our ambassador to that country. He helped Iran evade American sanctions and he lied to Congress about it.”

Cotton also slammed Lew for defending the Obama administration’s decision not to veto a 2016 United Nations Security council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

“We need to defeat Jack Lew’s nomination to show that we have a new approach to Iran,” he said. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, offered similar criticisms on Fox Business on Friday, saying that he has “real concerns” that Lew has “lied to Congress in the past about some of the financial arrangements that were made under the Obama administration.”

“That’s something that needs to be asked,” Rubio said. “We’ll go through those hearings, we’ll go through that process.” 

The accusations of lying to Congress relate to allegations, leveled in a 2018 Senate report, that Lew and other Obama administration officials lied to Congress about granting Iran access to the U.S. financial system as part of the Iran nuclear deal.

More broadly, as treasury secretary, Lew played a significant role in implementing sanctions relief for Iran as part of the nuclear deal.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), another Foreign Relations Committee member, described Lew in posts on X last week as the “key point man in negotiations [and] disinfo[rmation] campaign for Obama’s dangerously flawed deal w[ith] Iran.”

“The consequences are felt today as Iran — flush w[ith] cash due to Biden’s push to revive the deal at any cost — has fueled carnage in Israel,” Hagerty said in the posts. “Lew must answer for the failed Obama-Biden Middle East strategy as he appears before the Senate Foreign Relations committee for his confirmation hearing next week.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is currently blocking the fast-track confirmation of multiple Biden administration nominees to Middle East policy posts, also maintains concerns about Lew, a spokesperson said last week.

“Sen. Cruz has said since the summer that it was becoming impossible to expeditiously advance Biden administration nominees because those nominees keep lying to Congress and the American people, testifying publicly that they are committed to countering Iran and deepening the U.S.-Israel relationship then implementing the opposite policies in secret once confirmed,” the spokesperson said. “He will evaluate Lew’s nomination against the backdrop of those concerns.”

Lew appears likely to face additional scrutiny over his involvement more broadly with the Obama administration’s Middle East policy as White House chief of staff, significant financial payments he received from New York University and payouts from Citigroup. The latter two issues were examined during Lew’s previous confirmation hearing for treasury secretary.

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