Rep. Peter DeFazio, one of the most outspoken Democratic critics of the White House economic team, said he plans to press the 27-member Congressional Populist Caucus to back his call for their ouster. The Oregon Democrat created a stir on Capitol Hill after an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday during which he said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers should lose their jobs for protecting Wall Street at the expense of broader job creation. DeFazio on Thursday said he has asked Populist Caucus Chairman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) for time at the groups next meeting to discuss whether members will sign on to a call for the scalps of Obamas economic brain trust. He pointed to a lot of discontent within the Democratic Caucus about the officials role in the administration and dismissed the suggestion he was criticizing the president himself, who remains widely popular among Democrats. I see it as helping the president get rid of the losers on his staff that America doesnt need, DeFazio said. The third-ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, DeFazio has long been critical of what he views as a resistance by the Obama White House to invest adequately in employment-boosting infrastructure projects. But Geithner, in particular, has faced sharpened criticism this week from DeFazio and others after a Monday report by the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That audit blasted Geithner for ceding too much negotiating power to huge Wall Street banks entangled with the American International Group Inc. while he managed the insurance giants rescue last year. But while DeFazio may be right that Democratic frustration with Obamas economic advisers is building, there was little evidence Thursday that his colleagues in the Populist Caucus are ready to go so far as to join in calling for their firings. I havent had any type of opportunity to consider that type of significant decision, Braley said, though he seconded DeFazios criticism that the administrations top economic policymakers have focused on propping up Wall Street to the exclusion of putting Americans back to work. Theres certainly a lot of discontent, and it will be a focus going forward.Several other Populist Caucus members voiced similar views Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) described Geithners performance to date as pick your debacle, and Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) said, I almost put my foot through the television during a recent Meet the Press appearance by the Treasury chief but all stopped short of advocating resignations. However, Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) rose to Geithners defense, saying he agrees with the administrations conclusion that the health of Wall Street and Main Street are linked. Job creation is my No. 1 priority, Arcuri said, and my sense is thats also his priority.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.