In a clear sign that the Obama administration’s legislative challenges will come as much from the left as much as the right, the Treasury Department confirmed late Monday that Wall Street banker Antonio Weiss won’t be renominated to be undersecretary of domestic finance.
Weisse’s investment banking background made him a target for liberal Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who worked against the administration’s pick last year. As a consequence, Weiss asked Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to not renominate him before the new Republican-controlled Congress.
“Given his tremendous expertise and shared passion for helping working families, I asked Antonio to join Treasury in a different role—as a Counselor to me—and he accepted,” Lew said in a statement. “In that role, he will provide advice to me on a broad range of domestic and international issues, including financial markets, regulatory reform, job creation, and fostering broad-based economic growth.”
The counselor position allows Weiss, 48, to continue working at Treasury without congressional approval.
“I continue to believe that the opposition to his nomination was not justified,” Lew said. “Nonetheless, I am confident that he will ... make an important contribution to the work we are doing to create broadly shared economic opportunity and financial stability that will be a foundation for long-term prosperity.”
Liberals cheered the news.
“I have no personal animosity toward Mr. Weiss but I am very glad he withdrew his nomination,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont. “The president needs economic advisors who do not come from Wall Street. In fact, he needs advisors prepared to stand up to Wall Street.”
The withdrawal also boosted Sen. Warren’s standing as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
“Ultimately, tonight's victory shows why so many in the Democratic Party are hungry for Elizabeth Warren to run for president,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal group Democracy for America. “Not only is Senator Warren able to marshal the grassroots energy to achieve what too many in Washington say is impossible, but if she were president Wall Street bankers wouldn't be at the helm of our economic policy in the first place.”
Secretary Lew did not mention who might be nominated to be the next undersecretary for domestic finance, nor did he offer a timetable. The position involves oversight of the nation’s public finances, financial liabilities and involvement in fiscal policies. The former undersecretary, Mary Miller, announced her departure last June.
Weiss had been nominated in November to fill the vacancy. He spent much of the past 15 years working for private asset manager Lazard, most of it in Europe, and in 2009 rose to be its global head of mergers and acquisitions.
A renaissance man of sorts, Weiss also served as publisher of the literary quarterly The Paris Review.