WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has tapped Wal-Mart’s Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his next budget chief, thrusting her into the centre of Washington’s heated partisan budget battles.
A White House official said Obama will announce Burwell’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget during a White House ceremony Monday morning. If confirmed by the Senate, Burwell would bring more diversity to Obama’s second term Cabinet following criticism that many top jobs were going to white men.
Burwell’s nomination comes as $85 billion in automatic budget cuts begin going into effect. The White House and congressional Republicans were unable to reach a deal to avert the cuts ahead of Friday’s deadline.
Burwell is a Washington veteran, having served as OMB’s deputy director in the Clinton administration and chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. She currently runs the Wal-Mart Foundation, the retail giant’s philanthropic wing, and previously served as president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.
The White House official credited Burwell with being a principal architect of a series of budget plans in the 1990s that led to a budget surplus.
Wal-Mart president Mike Duke called Burwell a strong leader with a “clear vision for making big things happen.”
“She understands business and the role that business, government and civil society must play to build a strong economy that provides opportunity and strengthens communities across the country,” Duke said in a statement.
Burwell would replace acting OMB director Jeffrey Zients, who has been discussed as a contender for other top administration posts.