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Senate approves Obama's budget chief

April 24, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the President of the Walmart Foundation, listens as U.S. President Obama announces her nomination budget director.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the President of the Walmart Foundation, listens… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve President Obama’s nominee for top White House budget expert, bringing a woman into a top post in an administration that critics say has been dominated by men.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell was confirmed as director of the Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 96-0, a quick, bipartisan vote of support by a Senate that has strongly objected to several key White House nominations, including the secretary of Defense.

“Sylvia shares my commitment to growing our economy, shrinking our deficits in a balanced way, and reigniting a rising, thriving middle class,” Obama said in a statement after the vote.

Obama said Burwell’s perspective will be important in efforts to craft alternatives to the so-called sequester budget cuts now hitting the federal government.

DOCUMENT: President Obama’s 2014 budget

“Her experience will be especially important as we continue our efforts to replace the indiscriminate budget cuts that are already starting to cost jobs, hurt families, and inconvenience Americans,” he said.

An alumni of the Clinton administration, Burwell worked as deputy director of the budget office from 1998 to 2001. She then worked for a decade at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, including as chief operating officer. She most recently headed the Walmart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc..

With experience in and out of Washington, she won approval from both sides of the political aisle.

“Burwell knows what it takes to get our nation back on a sound fiscal path at this critical point in time,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversaw the nomination. “Her wisdom from her years both in and out of government will now be put to use in addressing fiscal challenges.”

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee, also praised the nominee. “It is imperative we have a business-minded leader in charge of the OMB that recognizes the financial inefficiencies caused by overlapping government initiatives. Mrs. Burwell is qualified and capable.”

Burwell was nominated by the president in March. She replaces acting budget director Jeffrey Zients, who has been leading the budget office since former director Jacob L. Lew became Treasury Secretary.

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