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Barack Obama's treasury secretary appointee apologized on Wednesday for failing to pay a portion of his income taxes, saying he took "full responsibility" for the "careless" mistake, and pledging to restore the Congress' trust in him.
"If you and your colleagues in the Senate give me the opportunity to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, I will do everything I can to justify your trust and confidence," pledged Timothy Geithner, who stands to become one of Barack Obama's chief financial advisers pending confirmation.
Sitting before the Senate Financial Services Committee, Geithner was queried on a number of economic issues. He called on the Senate to pass the second tranche of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, adding: "we have to fundamentally reform this program." He also offered a broad plea for the quick implementation of an economic stimulus package to jump start the economy.
His personal error in not paying taxes for a period of self-employment became fodder for GOP officials on the committee. Not, necessarily, as a means of derailing his nomination but rather as a measure of pegging him down on certain policy issues.
The Ranking Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley noted that there is a $290 billion difference between the taxes owed and those collected - some $30,000 to which Geithner had, until recently, contributed. What would he do about the lost revenues, the Iowa Republican wanted to know.
"The president is committed to working with the Congress on an effective program to close the tax gap," Geithner replied.
In the end, the undercurrent of the proceedings was more about the nation's economic recession than the nominee's personal follies. And yet, in an effort to drive home just how serious the situation had become, Sen. Chuck Schumer referenced, of all things, a satirical newspaper.
"The Onion recently ran a headline that struck a nerve because it is all too true," said the New York Democrat. "It read 'Recession Plagued Nation Demands a New Bubble to Invest In' end quote. The fact of the matter is that for far too long this country has relied on easy credit to supply the growth. We need to develop stable long-term industries that can survive the ups and downs of the business cycle."