- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is making few new friends in Congress these days, as a growing litany of bipartisan critics are questioning whether he should keep his job.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican House member on the Joint Economic Committee, on Thursday was the latest lawmaker to call for Mr. Geithner to resign, saying the nation has lost confidence in the Obama administration’s ability to handle the economy.

“For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your post?” Mr. Brady asked Mr. Geithner during a hearing of the panel.

Mr. Geithner, who was appointed by Mr. Obama and took office in January, shrugged off the request, saying that it was “a great privilege for me to serve this president.”

“I agree with almost nothing in what you said,” the secretary added. “And I think almost nothing of what you said represents a fair and accurate perception of where this economy is today.”

Another Texas Republican, Rep. Michael C. Burgess, went a step further than Mr. Brady in his criticism of the secretary.

“I don’t think that you should be fired; I thought you should have never been hired,” Mr. Burgess told Mr. Geithner.

Mr. Burgess said questionable actions in Mr. Geithner’s past, such his admission shortly after his nomination that he owed back taxes, made him unsuitable for the job from the beginning.

“It did not leave the American people with a good feeling about the person who was going to be responsible for this economic recovery,” he said.

The GOP rebukes came two days after the release of an embarrassing report by a Treasury Department watchdog that criticized Mr. Geithner’s handling last fall of an initial emergency plan to save then-failing American International Group (AIG) while head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The report, conducted by Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said that although the Federal Reserve’s initial $85 billion credit line to AIG helped the company settle many of its outstanding contracts with outside parties, “its terms were unworkable.”

Even some liberals have been piling on Mr. Geithner. Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, said flatly on MSNBC on Wednesday that Mr. Geithner should quit.

Mr. DeFazio said that within the House Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of liberal House Democrats of which he is a member, there is a growing consensus that Mr. Geithner should leave his post.

“The populist caucus is considering questions regarding both him and some other members of the economic team in the near future,” he said.

The congressman also hinted that White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers should perhaps be shown the door.

The president “is being failed by his economic team,” Mr. DeFazio told Ed Schultz on MSNBC. “We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get millions back for Americans.”

But Mr. Geithner received a generally warm reception from Democrats during Thursday’s hearing.

Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, told the secretary that he appreciates his public service.

“I voted for your confirmation, and it was the right vote,” he said.

Regarding policy issues, Mr. Geithner told the panel he doesn’t support making TARP permanent, vowing to put the program “out of its misery” as soon as possible.

“No one will be happier than I am to see that program terminated and unwound,” he said. “We are moving very aggressively to close down and terminate the programs that defined TARP at the beginning of the [economic] crisis.”

He also urged Congress to move quickly in overhauling the nation’s badly flawed financial rules, which he says is essential for the health of the economy.

The House this month passed a Wall Street overhaul bill that would allow the government to step in and dismantle a failing company in a way designed not to collapse the economy. The Senate banking committee last week introduced a similar measure.

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