Investment banker Antonio Weiss has withdrawn himself from consideration for a top Treasury Department position in the face of strong opposition from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other liberals who objected to his Wall Street background.
A little-known Wall Street executive nominated to one of three Treasury undersecretary positions, Weiss has become a focal point for Democrats who complain Wall Street has too much influence in Washington.
Weiss instead will serve as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, a position that does not require Senate confirmation, Obama administration officials said.
“We continue to believe that Mr. Weiss is an extremely well-qualified individual, who is committed to the policy goals of this administration and firmly supports the administration’s policies on fostering economic growth and supporting our middle class,” said White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman.
“We strongly believe that the opposition to his nomination was not justified, and we are confident that he will prove himself to be a dedicated, talented, and effective public servant,” she said.
As congressional Republicans push to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, Warren and others said the administration needed officials committed to fighting Wall Street’s efforts to loosen recently tightened regulations.
“We’ve already seen that the new Republican Congress is going to aggressively attack the Dodd-Frank Act. It is critical that the Treasury Department defend the act from those attacks and push for strong implementation and enforcement of the law,” Warren said in response to Weiss’ withdrawal.
Weiss had been nominated by President Obama in November to serve as undersecretary for domestic finance.
A top executive at investment bank Lazard Ltd., Weiss had advised Burger King Worldwide Inc. on its $11.4-billion purchase last summer to acquire Canadian chain Tim Hortons Inc.
The transaction has been criticized as a so-called tax inversion because Burger King plans to move its headquarters to lower-tax Canada.
Weiss’ involvement in the deal helped fuel opposition to his nomination from Warren and other liberal Democrats. Warren argued Weiss did not have the experience necessary for the position, which oversees implementation of Dodd-Frank and other financial regulations.
With the arrival of the new Congress in January, Obama needed to resubmit Weiss’ nomination. Last weekend, Weiss asked the White House not to renominate him “to avoid the distraction of the lengthy confirmation process that his renomination would likely entail,” Friedman said.
Lew called Weiss “exceptionally capable and qualified” with “deep expertise in financial markets.”
As counselor, Weiss will provide advice “on a broad range of domestic and international issues, including financial markets, regulatory reform, job creation, and fostering broad-based economic growth,” Lew said.
“I am disappointed that Antonio will not have the opportunity to serve as undersecretary, but I understand his request not to be renominated,” Lew said. “I continue to believe that the opposition to his nomination was not justified.”
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