Grassley and Harkin both vote no on Geithner

The U.S. Senate confirmed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary today by a vote of 60 to 34, but as you can see from the roll call, both of Iowa’s senators voted no.

Grassley was joined by 29 other Republicans. He voted against Geithner in the Senate Finance Committee a few days ago, citing the nominee’s failure to fully meet his tax obligations during some previous years.

Harkin was one of only three Senate Democrats to vote against confirming Geithner. According to the Des Moines Register,

Harkin voiced concerns about Geithner’s failure to pay some income taxes several years ago, amounting to about $34,000. […]

Harkin also said Geithner was at fault for how some of the $700-billion financial rescue money, authorized by Congress in October, was spent. Harkin voted for the bailout, but said later he would have voted against it had he known the money would go to banks, rather than to buy bad loans.

Geithner was a key figure in the crafting and administering of the money as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the post, Geithner also was partly to blame for the financial meltdown, which stemmed from inadequate regulation, Harkin argued.

“Mr. Geithner made serious errors of judgment in failing to pay his taxes, and he made serious errors in his job as chief regulator of the financial institutions at the heart of the current financial crisis,” Harkin said in a statement released after the vote.

I am surprised that so many senators voted against Geithner. I stand by my opinion that if he were not a white male, the tax problems would have sunk his nomination.

Speaking of Senate confirmations, some Republican has reportedly put an anonymous hold on the nomination of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. I called Grassley’s office today, and a staffer told me it wasn’t him.

Will President Barack Obama go to the mat to get Solis confirmed? Will the Republicans filibuster this strong supporter of workers’ rights and the Employee Free Choice Act?

I had assumed that Attorney-General designee Eric Holder would be the cabinet appointment most fiercely opposed by Republicans, but perhaps it will be Solis.

UPDATE: Geithner’s actions during his first day on the job are not encouraging. I believe he will turn out to be one of Obama’s worst appointments.

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Grassley casts his first vote against an Obama nominee

Senator Chuck Grassley voted against Timothy Geithner’s nomination for Treasury Secretary today:

Grassley had praised Geithner for being qualified for the job and for apologizing for his failure to pay $34,000 in income taxes several years ago. But Grassley said he gave inconsistent answers during his testimony to the committee during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

“The explanations for irregularities have ranged from statements that he should have known, to proclamations that if only his accountants had warned him he would have done the right thing,” Grassley said in a statement released after the committee vote.

“I received a message yesterday from a constituent in Dubuque expressing concern about this nomination. The constituent wrote, ‘If the man cannot handle his own finances, how is he going to handle the country’s?’ “

Geither will be confirmed easily by the full Senate. Only four other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee joined Grassley in voting against him.

I am surprised that Grassley voted against Geithner, given that the Wall Street establishment is uniformly behind this nomination.

I wasn’t crazy about this pick because of Geithner’s role in the bailout. The Des Moines Register makes clear that Grassley did not oppose Geithner for that reason.

I think it’s reasonable for people to object when the prospective head of the Treasury Department did not fully meet his tax obligations for several years in a row. I also suspect that if Geithner were not a white male, a lot more senators would view his past tax problems as disqualifying.

I expect all of Obama’s cabinet appointments to be confirmed, with Eric Holder perhaps getting the most “no” votes for Attorney General.

Interestingly, only two Republicans voted against confirming Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State yesterday.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and five other Obama appointees on Tuesday.  

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