Obama: Geithner situation an embarrassment


Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:12 p.m.

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama called disclosures about Treasury choice Timothy Geithner's tax problems an embarrassment Wednesday but said Geithner's "innocent mistake" shouldn't keep him from confirmation as the new administration's top official in urgent efforts to revive the economy.

The revelations that Geithner had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes several years ago derailed Senate Democrats' plans to speed him to confirmation by Inauguration Day, but senators in both parties said the information was unlikely to torpedo his chances in the end.

Obama had hoped for approval by Tuesday, but senators now have scheduled Geithner's confirmation hearing for next Wednesday, with Senate debate and a vote sometime after that.

Two Republicans objected to scheduling a confirmation hearing this Friday at the Senate Finance Committee after the panel disclosed Geithner had failed to pay taxes he owed for several years. Democrats were working to clear away the obstacles, holding out hope that he could still be confirmed Tuesday.

The president-elect, asked about the situation on Wednesday, said, "Look is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He said so himself. But it was an innocent mistake. It is a mistake that is commonly made for people who are working internationally or for international institutions. It has been corrected. He paid the penalties."

He spoke after a meeting with Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., about their recent trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

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