President Barack Obama was expected to name Washington veteran Jack Lew as his next Treasury chief as early as Thursday, stocking his team for the next budget showdown with Republicans.
Lew, the White House chief of staff, is steeped in treacherous US politics, and sources familiar with the selection process said Obama considered what they described as his deep knowledge of domestic and international economics.
White House officials would not confirm that Lew would succeed Timothy Geithner or name the date when Obama will make it formal, but they did not rule out the idea that the announcement could come on Thursday.
Lew, 57, is a classic Washington insider, who would not need a cramming session to get up to speed on the complex budget, tax and economic rows consuming Washington -- one reason why Obama may have leaned towards him.
There had been some reports that the president may choose an corporate CEO or a Wall Street luminary for the role, but such a pick could leave the neophyte Treasury secretary adrift on tricky political currents.
Lew, 57, has twice served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget -- for Obama and former Democratic president Bill Clinton.
His nomination -- which must be confirmed by the Senate -- will come in a week in which Obama rounded out his second term national security team, notably picking former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as his new defense secretary.
Sources familiar with the selection process highlighted elements of Lew's resume relevant to the tough situation he would inherit, with Obama and Republicans feuding over taxation and spending crisis coming to the boil.
They noted that under Clinton, Lew was part of the team which negotiated a deal with a Republican Congress to balance the US federal budget, which created a surplus, in contrast to today's $1 trillion-plus deficits.
Heading the Office of Management and Budget under Obama, Lew led negotiations to cut spending with Republicans earlier in Obama's first term and helped framed Obama's deficit cutting plans. He also served as Deputy Secretary of State.
A lawyer by trade, Lew also spent periods of his career working for senior Democrats on Capitol Hill.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lew would take the helm as Obama is locked in a row with Republicans over his demands for a raising of the current $16 trillion borrowing limit, without which Washington could default on its debt.
He would also face other clashes with congressional Republicans on huge fiscal cliff spending cuts that were put off during a New Year political crisis for two months, and come due at the end of February.
Geithner, a key player in Obama's effort to revive the US economy since the worst recession in decades, has made it known that he does not want to serve a second term at Treasury. He is expected to leave by month's end.
The 51-year-old Geithner has long been keen to return to New York, where he was president of the local Federal Reserve Bank.
The Treasury secretary had previously delayed his departure to help Obama maintain the economic recovery and to play a major role in the successful effort to avert the fiscal cliff budgetary crisis.