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Grassley Explains Opposition to Geithner

Only five of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted today against the nomination of Tim Geithner for Treasury secretary, but it’s worth noting that one of them was the panel’s ranking member, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley.

Geithner, of course, has been under the microscope after it was revealed that he failed to pay more than $30,000 in taxes earlier this decade while working overseas. Yesterday, President Obama’s Treasury secretary pick spent four hours before the Finance panel, with much of that time consumed apologizing for his “mistakes.”

Grassley, though, wasn’t impressed. From his statement explaining his opposition:

During yesterday’s confirmation hearing, Mr. Geithner gave answers to committee member questions about his tax compliance problems. The nominee’s answers to the committee and during the vetting process give me pause. 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. 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?”

The Senate may vote to confirm the nomination of Mr. Geithner. If so, I will work with him to do what needs to be done for economic recovery, including the areas of tax and fiscal policy and new markets through international trade. I will also work to fulfill my obligations as a United States Senator in our system of checks and balances. That said, I cannot vote to confirm the nomination based on the record and the need to foster greater accountability in both big government and our financial institutions.

Mathematically, the Democrats’ majority on the Finance panel is large enough that they won’t need Grassley’s support to push through their priorities this year. But realistically, Grassley remains a powerful voice in the upper chamber — one who works closely with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), while also holding considerable sway within the GOP caucus.

Grassley has vowed to work with Geithner if he’s confirmed (which is likely). Still, with the country mired in economic crisis, it doesn’t bode well that the Iowa senator doesn’t trust the White House official who’ll soon be in charge of getting us out.

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