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Republican lawmaker miffed with Obama's Treasury pick Lew

Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Treasury Department, testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hi
Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Treasury Department, testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Republican senator on Wednesday said he was unsatisfied with U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew's response to questions about a loan he received from a previous employer and was requesting more information before the Senate committee considering the nomination is asked to vote.

Lew received a $1.4 million loan in 2002 as part of his employment as an executive with New York University and other loans of more than $600,000 in each of the subsequent three years, according to the questions and answers released by Senator Charles Grassley.

Grassley, who is the No. 2 Republican on the Finance Committee vetting the nomination, asked Lew to describe the terms of the loan including the interest rate and minimum payment requirements, as well as other details, including how it was repaid and whether any portion of it was forgiven.

Lew said he did not recall the interest rate or other specific terms, though he said the university reported income related to housing assistance on his tax forms and that he paid all taxes that were due.

"His lack of recall is distressing, considering how much debt New York University students take on and how much they pay in tuition," Grassley said in a statement accompanying the questions and answers.

Grassley's objections are not expected to derail Lew's confirmation to serve as treasury secretary because Democrats control the Senate 53-45.

Lew previously served as President Barack Obama's chief of staff and White House budget director.

Grassley's comments on Wednesday were in contrast to Lew's confirmation hearing last week when Democratic and some Republican lawmakers on the committee were able to find common ground with Lew on updating the U.S. tax code.

A spokesman for committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, said Lew has been open and honest with the panel, answering every question posed to him in a timely manner.

"The confirmation process continues to move forward. All members are entitled to ask Mr. Lew follow up questions. And Senator Baucus has, and will continue to, listen to any concerns members of the committee may have," Baucus' spokesman said.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Lew had responded to the committee's requests "to an unprecedented degree," providing written responses to 444 questions.

"This follows three separate rounds of questions answered prior to his hearing, his release to the committee of six years of tax returns, a 3.5 hour confirmation hearing and his participation in personal one-on-one meetings (with) 41 senators over the course of two weeks," Schultz said in a statement.

Grassley, who has criticized Lew for investing in a venture capital fund registered in the Cayman Islands that Lew has since divested, has so far reserved judgment on whether he will vote in favor of Lew.

Baucus is expected to hold a vote on Lew's nomination after Congress returns from their break next week. He would then have to be confirmed by the full Senate.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Anna Yukhananov; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Beech)

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