Senate confirms Obama pick as treasury secretary despite tax problems

January 27th, 2009 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 27 (IANS) The US Senate has confirmed Timothy F. Geithner, President Barack Obama’s pick as the next treasury secretary to head his administration’s response to the financial crisis threatening economic growth around the globe.Geithner, a former Federal Reserve official, won Senate approval by a vote of 60 to 34 despite his past failure to pay thousands of dollars in taxes at a previous job with the International Monetary Fund. Several Democrats joined most Republicans in opposing the nomination.

Following the vote, Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden went to the Treasury Department to immediately swear Geithner in.

“We are at a moment of maximum challenge for our economy and our country,” said Geithner at the swearing in. “Our agenda is to move quickly to help (the president) do what the country asked (him) to do.”

The quick move is a sign that the president, who originally hoped Geithner would be sworn in on Inauguration Day, wants to get his entire team in place to help sell his $825 billion economic stimulus plan.

Geithner’s tax problem might have sunk a nominee in a different political climate, but enough senators seemed willing to overlook the errors to confirm Obama’s choice during an economic upheaval.

Republican Finance Committee member Orrin Hatch called Geithner’s tax problems “a very serious matter”, but said he supported the nominee “after weighing the facts of his tax situation with his impressive education, experience, and intelligence…and keeping in mind the desperate financial crisis currently facing this country”.

Rolling out the Obama administration’s comprehensive plan to rescue the ailing banking sector - the latest in a series of government efforts - will likely be Geithner’s first order of business.

He will have broad authority to spend the remaining $350 billion available under the bailout law, but many analysts say the administration may have to ask for more money to help banks dispose of trillions of dollars worth of bad investments.

Geithner is also planning to put new restrictions on any bailout money handed out to banks. Many lawmakers have been outraged by reports that banks who received chunks of the first $350 billion were not using that money to make new loans.

The Obama administration has also promised between $50 billion and $100 billion to help mitigate foreclosures, but specifics of the new plan have yet to be revealed.

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