Geithner Walks Away Relatively Unscathed

Posted January 21, 2009 at 12:59pm

The Senate Finance Committee spent less than four hours on Wednesday grilling Treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, and now appears poised to recommend his confirmation despite some early questions about his personal tax records. Some Republicans sounded the alarm last week when it was revealed that Geithner overlooked filing some $40,000 in taxes and once employed an immigrant housekeeper whose work papers had expired. While those issues came up in the first round of questioning in the Finance hearing Wednesday, lawmakers didn’t appear to view it as a disqualifier for his ultimate installment as Treasury secretary. “I apologize for putting you in the position where you had to look into this, especially now,” Geither said, calling his improperly filed taxes the result of “careless mistakes.” In his opening remarks, Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that Geithner “has been found to be a tax-gap participant,” but the Republican gave the packed committee room a bit of comic relief when he asked the nominee which software program he used to file his income taxes. “TurboTax,” the Treasury nominee said. Geithner also used the hearing to make the case for the Obama administration’s $825 billion economic stimulus plan, which would “help get people back to work, encourage private investment and break the cycle currently crippling our economy.” He noted that Congress’ passage of a Wall Street bailout package last year “helped prevent an economic crisis from becoming a catastrophe,” and hailed Members for approving the release of a second installment of the relief funds. Still, Members displeased with the management and oversight of the bailout program demanded that Geithner impose stricter reporting rules within the financial system, and criticized him for his negligence as the president of the New York Federal Reserve. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) focused his questions on entitlement reform, while Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Geithner to “to get to the bottom of this real estate crisis.” Geithner noted that the administration is working on a comprehensive housing package and hinted that it would be a separate measure from the more pressing economic stimulus bill. Finance members engaged in several rounds of questions with Geithner, President Obama’s first Cabinet pick and one whose appointment initially received praise from both sides of the aisle. While his tax records caused pause among several Members, Geithner’s appointment will likely be approved by the full committee when it takes up the nomination on Thursday. The full Senate also must consider Geithner’s appointment.