New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner won confirmation on Monday as US President Barack Obama’s Treasury secretary despite personal tax lapses that turned more than a third of the Senate against him.
“Tim’s work and the work of the entire Treasury Department must begin at once. We cannot lose a day, because every day the economic picture is darkening, here and across the globe,” Obama told the audience before Geithner was sworn into office by Vice President Joe Biden.
The Senate voted 60-34 to put Geithner in charge of the administration’s economic team. The swearing-in followed less than an hour later with the administration seeking to emphasize that it was wasting no time in trying to address the financial crisis.
Obama said there had been a “devastating loss of trust and confidence” and that the financial system was in “serious jeopardy.”
Geithner said the administration would work first to stabilize the financial system and get the economy growing again and then would move to reform the system.
“We are at a point of maximum challenge for our economy and our country,” Geithner said to a packed audience in the Treasury Department’s ornate Cash Room.
Referring to Geithner’s tax problems, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Geithner had made amends — he has paid the taxes and penalties — and possessed the talent needed to steer the nation out of the crisis.
A third of the Senate voted against Geithner, in large part because of his failure to pay all his taxes on income received from the IMF in 2001 and in three subsequent years. Ten Republicans overlooked that matter and voted for confirmation. Three Democrats and one independent voted against Geithner, including Senator Robert Byrd.
“Had he not been nominated for treasury secretary, it’s doubtful that he would have ever paid these taxes,” Byrd said in a statement.