- (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Eight Republican senators are raising concerns about White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew's nomination to be the next Treasury secretary. When Lew was head of the Office of Management and Budget, he failed to comply with a law requiring the administration to propose reforms to Medicare when the program's trustees report a funding problem.
The law says that if there is a Medicare funding warning, the president "shall submit to Congress" "proposed legislation to respond to such warning" within 15 days.
The Medicare Trustees have issued reports each year during Obama's first term warning of the worsening funding shortfalls for the Medicare program. The Obama administration, though, has yet to comply with the law.
As director of the OMB in 2010, 2011 and part of 2012, Lew would have been responsible for drafting the legislative proposals for the administration.
In a Monday letter, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the OMB, to comply with the law and to provide them will all documents related to the OMB's noncompliance with the law during Lew's tenure.
If confirmed, Lew would become chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Medicare Trust Funds, which is responsible for issuing the warnings that trigger the law in the first place.
"Given that the Secretary of the Treasury will be responsible for issuing Medicare funding warnings and will serve as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Medicare Trust Funds," the letter states, "we need a better understanding of the administration's decision not to comply with Medicare law and Mr. Lew's role in that decision."
Lew was nominated last month by Obama to replace outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Sessions has already said he would not vote in favor of confirming Lew because, while he was OMB director, Lew claimed that Obama's proposed budget would not add to the deficit.
In its 2012 report, the Trustees Board warned that Medicare will be bankrupt in 2024.