By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
WASHINGTON -- Revelations about Timothy Geithner's tax problems derailed Senate Democrats' plans Wednesday to speed him to confirmation as Treasury secretary so he could be sworn in on Inauguration Day.
President-elect Barack Obama had hoped for Geithner to be approved quickly so he could join other officials in urgent efforts to revive the failing national economy beginning immediately after Obama's own inauguration next Tuesday. Now, Geithner's confirmation hearing isn't scheduled until next Wednesday, with Senate debate and a vote some time after that.
A top Republican objected to a hearing this Friday for Geithner at the Senate Finance Committee after the panel disclosed he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes several years ago.Still, Democrats and Republicans on the panel voiced strong support for Geithner, who was phoning senators individually to persuade them that his tax problems were the result of innocent mistakes, not deliberate attempts to avoid paying the Internal Revenue Service. Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who chairs the committee, said Geithner's confirmation was "a given." He said he was working to clear away the objection to a quicker hearing for Geithner, which could allow him to be confirmed on Inauguration Day. Sen. Jon S. Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican, is blocking the hearing by insisting on rules that require a full week's notice for scheduling such a session, according to an aide close to the confirmation process. His objection was disclosed on condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to announce it.