Geithner Briefs Dems: "We're Doing In Weeks What Countries Did In Years"

04/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Ryan Grim Washington Bureau Chief, The Huffington Post

At a meeting in the Capitol that stretched late into Monday night, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner briefed House Democrats on the ongoing efforts to revitalize the economy.

He pleaded for patience, said numerous Democrats in the room, but also ticked off the administration's accomplishments to date. "We're doing in weeks what countries did in years," he said, according to a Democratic aide in the room.

"This will work," the aide paraphrased Geithner as saying of the overall recovery effort. "It will take some time. It will take some patience. But it will work."

Before the briefing, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told the Huffington Post that he thought a second stimulus would be necessary. Emerging from the meeting, he said that Geithner didn't agree and that the secretary thought that the legs of the 'stool' -- the stimulus, the housing rescue, the bank bailouts and tighter financial regulations -- would be enough for an economic recovery to sit on.

Earlier in the day, Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, expressed a similar sentiment, saying at a speech at the Brookings Institution that she wanted to see if the first stimulus worked before calling for a second.

The meeting was a general briefing to keep House Democrats apprised of White House plans, not for Geithner to announce any new policy. He did not seek any new bailout funds for the banking system, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) said that Geithner told the Democrats that the "budget's wound up with the economy" and that Obama intended to use his spending blueprint as a tool of economic recovery.

Geithner was also asked about the ongoing AIG bailout and how he justified giving the insurer taxpayer money that it then turned around and used to pay off the failed bets of major banks. Several members of Congress said that Geithner argued that the payments were justified, but the members said they weren't able to repeat the arguments he made.

"He was talking about how AIG was a mess," said Waxman, "but they really had no choice."