Official: Walmart Foundation head to be tapped as next budget director

Posted on: 10:36 pm, March 3, 2013, by

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By Kevin Bohn and Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) — Sylvia Mathews Burwell will be nominated Monday by President Barack Obama to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget, a senior Obama administration official said.

Burwell, 47, is currently the head of the Walmart Foundation, the retail chain’s charitable organization. The organization donated nearly $1 billion to causes worldwide in 2011, according to its website.

If confirmed by the Senate, she will assume a Cabinet-rank position as head of the White House agency that assists the president on budget matters.

While it may not have the profile of jobs such as secretary of state or secretary of defense, the OMB position is a central part of a president’s administration. One example of its importance is the rise of Jack Lew, who held that job before becoming White House chief of staff and now treasury secretary.

The stakes are especially high now, with Obama engaged in a protracted, heated battle with the Republican-led House of Representatives about the size and shape of the federal government’s budget.

The two sides have failed to reach an agreement to avert mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts — to the tune of $85 billion through the next seven months of the current fiscal year — that took effect Friday. In addition, a possible government shutdown looms at the end of this month.

Walmart CEO Mike Duke congratulated Burwell on her upcoming nomination, calling her “a strong leader who both masters the details and has a clear vision for making big things happen.”

“She cares deeply about people (and) she understands business and the role that business, government and civil society must play to build a strong economy that provides opportunities and strengthens communities across the country,” Duke said in a statement.

Beyond her more recent work in corporate philanthropy — including as the chief operating officer and founding president of the Global Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through 2011 — Burwell has experience in government.

She worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration under then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, something that she has in common with Lew and Peter Orszag, another OMB chief in the Obama administration.

For parts of 1997 and 1998, Burwell was a deputy chief of staff to Clinton, according to her profile on MetLife’s website, where she is a member of its board of directors. She served as deputy director of the OMB between 1998 and 2001.