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Senate panel backs Obama budget nominee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate panel overwhelmingly approved President Barack Obama's pick for budget chief on Thursday, but it was unclear when the full Senate would act on his nomination.

By a vote of 22 to 1, the Senate Budget Committee approved Jack Lew, who presided over surpluses as President Bill Clinton's budget director, to once again head the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

Lew, must still be approved by the full Senate before he can begin work. A Democratic aide said he did not know yet whether the Senate would be able to act before it adjourns for the November 2 elections.

If he clears the Senate, Lew will face a grim fiscal landscape. Pressured by tax cuts, two wars and the worst recession since the 1930s, budget deficits have ballooned in recent years to nearly 10 percent of gross domestic product.

The federal government is expected to spend $1.34 trillion more than it takes in during the fiscal year that ends September 30, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Lew was named to replace Peter Orszag who left in July.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Chris Wilson)