Senate Approves Geithner by 60-34 Vote

Posted January 26, 2009 at 5:49pm

The Senate voted 60-34 Monday night to approve the nomination of Timothy Geithner to serve as secretary of Treasury.

The vote followed three hours of debate in which Members assailed the nominee for his role in developing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package that has since been criticized for its mismanagement and failure to reignite the financial markets.

“I am not convinced that Mr. Geithner is right to lead the Treasury Department at a time when we need strong regulation,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said in a strongly worded address on the Senate floor just before the vote.

“We need a Treasury secretary who is going to bang some heads around,” Harkin said, suggesting that any Cabinet leader should “call in some of these banks and say, “You know what? You’ve had a free ride. For many years, we’ve deregulated you, [but] it’s over. You are now going to be regulated, and I’m going to lead the charge in imposing stiff regulations.’”

Harkin was joined by a handful of other Democrats, including Russ Feingold (Wis.) in voting against the nominee. But most of the criticism came from Republicans.

Several Members blasted Geithner, who as Treasury secretary will lead the Internal Revenue Service, for just last month repaying $34,000 in back taxes owed from 2001 to 2004.

“This is exactly what frustrates people about the government. The man who wants to be in charge of the IRS messed up on his taxes, then got a pass from the U.S. Senate,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on the Senate floor.

In between the comments from critical Members, supporters of Geithner called for his immediate approval in order to have a White House financial team in place that will resuscitate the flailing economy.

“This powerful economic storm demands strong, decisive and wise leadership. No one is more qualified or prepared for the task than Tim Geithner,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Geithner was the first nominee picked by now-President Barack Obama after the November general election. Although not as widely known as top White House economic adviser and one-time Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Geithner was generally hailed as an excellent choice from both sides of the aisle and his confirmation was considered inevitable.

In fact, Geithner met with several Members during the opening weeks of the new legislative session as he pushed for Obama’s economic stimulus package and answered questions leading up to his confirmation hearing.

But after revelations of his flawed tax records were revealed, criticism started trickling in and Geithner’s confirmation hearing was pushed back one week.

When Geithner finally did testify before the committee last week, his tax problem was brought up by nearly every Member. The nominee repeatedly had to apologize for his “careless mistakes;” the committee voted 18-5 to approve his nomination.

While Geithner’s approval places one more secretary in Obama’s Cabinet, a handful of nominations are lingering in committee.

The nominations of Eric Holder for attorney general, Tom Daschle for Health and Human Services secretary and Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) for Labor secretary must still be approved at the committee level before their nominations can be taken up by the full Senate.