Walmart Foundation head confirmed as Obama budget chief


WASHINGTON — Walmart Foundation’s Sylvia Mathews Burwell easily won Senate confirmation Wednesday as President Obama’s next budget chief.

The Senate voted 96 to 0 to confirm the Bentonville resident resident as chief of the Office of Management and Budget — plunging her deep into the ongoing partisan battle over the nation’s debt and deficit.

In a statement issued after the vote, Obama said he was pleased the Senate had confirmed Burwell.

“Sylvia has spent a career fighting for working families, and she was part of an OMB team that presided over three budget surpluses in a row. 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,” Obama said. “Sylvia will be a key member of my economic team, and I look forward to working with her in the years ahead.”

During floor debate, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, praised Burwell as an “exceptional and qualified” nominee, citing her budget work with the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

“She has first-hand experience with a balanced, responsible approach to deficits,” Murray said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., also spoke in favor of Burwell.

“I will support her and I hope she rises to the occasion,” he said.

Burwell, 47, has been president of the Walmart Foundation, the philanthropic wing of the retail giant based in Bentonville, since October 2011. Before that she was president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.

The West Virginia native served in various positions in the Clinton administration during the 1990s, including OMB deputy secretary, deputy chief of staff to Clinton, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and staff director for the National Economic Council.

Burwell replaces acting OMB director Jeffrey Zients, who has filled in as OMB chief since Jack Lew was named Treasury Secretary in January 2012.

Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark., supported her nomination.

Last month, Wal-Mart Stores President and CEO Mike Duke issued a statement congratulating Burwell on her nomination and praising her as a “strong leader” with a clear vision for making big things happen.

“Sylvia does a great job leading the Walmart Foundation, and if confirmed by the Senate, will do a tremendous job serving our country,” he said in the March statement.