WASHINGTON – As he prepares for more spending battles with Congress, President Obama plans to nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, head of the Walmart Foundation, as his next budget director, the White House said Sunday.
A former deputy budget director in the Clinton administration, Burwell would replace Jeffrey Zients, acting head of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Obama is scheduled to announce her appointment Monday morning.
If confirmed by the Senate, Burwell would be one of the few top female aides to Obama, joining senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. Obama has been criticized for not having more women in key administration positions.
Burwell has plenty of Washington experience. She follows former OMB Director Jacob J. Lew, now Treasury secretary, and White House economic advisor Gene Sperling as former Clinton aides who joined the Obama administration.
In addition to serving as deputy OMB director from 1998 to 2001, she was a deputy White House chief of staff to Clinton and chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
During her first stint at OMB, she helped craft plans that led to the last U.S. budget surpluses, the White House said.
“Burwell’s deep knowledge of budget and economic issues along with her record of fighting for working Americans make her the perfect choice to lead the OMB at this important time,” the White House said. “Her record proves that she knows how to cut wasteful spending in a smart way while also making the investments needed to grow the economy, protect the middle class and promote prosperity for generations to come.”
Burwell has held top roles at two major global philanthropy organizations since leaving the Clinton administration in 2001.
In January 2012, she took over as head of the Walmart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. She also heads Wal-Mart's Women's Economic Empowerment Initiative. In 2010, the foundation pledged to spend $2 billion through 2015 fighting hunger in the U.S. It also supports education, environmental and health initiatives.
“Sylvia is a strong leader who both masters the details and has a clear vision for making big things happen,” Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke said. “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.”
Before joining the Walmart Foundation, Burwell was president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She worked at the Gates foundation for 10 years and was its chief operating officer.