RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And this morning's business bottom line looks to the Treasury Department. A second term for President Obama means new Cabinet appointments, and that includes at the Treasury. After four grueling years, Secretary Timothy Geithner will be stepping down sometime after the inauguration. NPR's John Ydstie takes look at a couple possible replacements.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: The Treasury secretary was arguably the most important Cabinet post in the first Obama administration. Secretary Geithner had wobbly banks, auto bailouts and the great recession on his plate. The next Treasury secretary will face big challenges, too, beginning with the fiscal cliff and working with Republicans to craft a grand bargain on deficit reduction. It's not surprising, then, that there's been a lot of talk about Erskine Bowles as a replacement for Geithner. Bowles chaired the president's deficit reduction panel, the Simpson-Bowles commission. Speaking to Charlie Rose last March, he outlined the content of a good budget deal.

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ERSKINE BOWLES: Any of them that don't address defense, any of that don't address Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and don't reform the tax code and aren't balanced in some way in between that, aren't serious.

YDSTIE: Bowles was a chief of staff for President Clinton. He's also a former investment banker, and is popular with Republicans and on Wall Street. But he has criticized President Obama's budget publically while praising Paul Ryan's. A more likely choice might be Jack Lew, the current White House chief of staff and formerly the president's budget director. Here he is in April 2011 discussing Social Security reform.

JACK LEW: It's never really moved the debate forward for one side or another to put a plan out there. It's only really worked well when the parties come together. That's what happened in 1983.

YDSTIE: Lew worked on that 1983 Social Security fix as an aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill. He has Hill experience and the budget expertise to tackle the big issues that are on the Treasury's plate. And he's got a good working relationship with the president. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.

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