Senate gives Paulson nod
Senate easily confirms the Goldman Sachs Chairman as Treasury secretary, succeeding John Snow.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Henry Paulson's move from Wall Street to President Bush's Cabinet became official Wednesday, when the Senate confirmed him to be the nation's 74th Treasury secretary, succeeding John Snow.
Paulson, 60, the CEO of Goldman Sachs (Charts), was nominated for the post last month by President Bush, replacing Snow, who announced last month he would step down after serving nearly 3-1/2 years as Treasury chief.
Paulson, who is known as 'Hank,' will be Bush's third treasury chief, following Snow and Paul O'Neill. He served as an aide at the Pentagon and White House during the Nixon administration before going to Goldman Sachs and working his way up to CEO.
Paulson was confirmed by the full Senate on a voice vote.
Bush thanked senators for "moving swiftly" on Paulson's nomination.
"I look forward to working with Hank to keep our economy and financial markets strong and to continue our efforts to choke off sources of terrorist financing," the president said in a statement.
In his confirmation hearing, Paulson told members of the Senate Finance Committee that he would "focus intensely" on how the United States can strengthen its competitive position in the global economy.
At Tuesday's hearing, Paulson said he expected to be "quite active" on international issues during the remaining 2-1/2 years of the Bush administration, such as trying to persuade China to adopt a flexible currency.
Increased flexibility for China's yuan would likely mean that it would rise in value against the dollar, making Chinese goods more expensive for Americans and possibly helping to lower the U.S. trade deficit.
Paulson also said, in response to Senate questioning, that tax increases would be "a big mistake." Paulson said that, while he wished the budget deficit was lower, the best way to shrink it was through continued economic growth to generate more revenues.
He is not the first treasury chief to come from Goldman Sachs. Robert Rubin, who served in the post during the Clinton administration, is also a former Goldman Sachs CEO, as was New Jersey Gov. John Corzine, a former U.S. senator.
Paulson's new job will include a sharp pay cut. He pulled down $38 million in compensation from Goldman Sachs last year; the treasury secretary makes a mere $175,700, or about what he earned in two days at the Wall Street giant.
Paulson, 60, is a multimillionaire who has said that he will sell about $500 million of Goldman Sachs stock after being confirmed. His total wealth is estimated at around $700 million.
Treasury has seen more turnover at the top than any of the other Cabinet departments, which have had just one or two secretaries during Bush's presidency.
However, some non-departmental posts with Cabinet rank have had three leaders, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Trade Representative.
--from staff and wire reports