Echoing comments made by a Democratic lawmaker Wednesday night, two Republican members of the Joint Economic Committee today called for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to resign.
"It's been a year since the president was elected," the panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, said at a hearing this morning featuring Geithner. "It's appropriate for the American people to assess how well the administration's economic policies are working. They are not. They have failed."
"Unemployment has skyrocketed far past the White House's projections and promises. America continues to shed jobs: More than 2.8 million since the stimulus was enacted," Brady said. "We've had a series of embarrassing investigations about all the wild stimulus claims, the latest fake jobs from fake congressional districts. …
"You are the point man on the economy," Brady said to Geithner. "The buck, in effect, stops with you."
Brady cited comments made Wednesday night by a Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, to MSNBC's Ed Schultz that Geithner and National Economic Council director Larry Summers should resign. DeFazio told Schultz that President Obama is "being failed by his economic team. We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get millions back for Americans."
When Schultz asked if Geithner should stay on as Treasury chief, DeFazio responded "no."
"Conservatives agree that as point person you've failed," Brady told Geithner at today's hearing. "Liberals are growing in that consensus as well. Poll after poll shows the public has lost confidence in this president's ability to handle the economy. For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your post?"
Replied Geithner, "I agree with almost nothing in what you said, and I think that almost nothing in what you said represents a fair and accurate perception of where this economy is today."
Geithner said it is "a great privilege to serve this president." He reminded lawmakers of the dire economic situation that the Obama administration inherited in January.
Geithner Spars With Republican Lawmakers
"You gave this president an economy falling off the cliff, values of American savings cut almost in half, millions of Americans out of work," Geithner said.
"It's just a basic fact: A year ago this economy was falling at a rate of 6 percent a year. We were losing between half a million and three-quarters of a million jobs and that process was accelerating, not slowing, until the president of the United States came and took office."
"Mr. Secretary, the public has lost all confidence in your ability to do the job," Brady responded. "Conservatives agree, Democrats agree that it really is time for a fresh start, and I would urge you to consider it."
"If you look at any measure of consumer and investor confidence today," replied Geithner, "if you look at any measure of the strength and stability and health of the American economy, if you look at any measure of confidence in the financial system, it is substantially stronger today than when the president of the United States took office and that happened not on its own, it happened because of a set of tough difficult choices.
"This economy did not come into this simply facing the worst financial crisis in generations, it came into this with almost a decade, certainly eight years of basic neglect of basic public goods in health care, in education, in public infrastructure, in how we use energy, and fixing those problems is a central obligation," Geithner said.
"Tell all of that to the millions of Americans who no longer have jobs because of your decisions," interrupted Brady.
"They would have had more jobs and more confidence and more employment in this country if we had not let this crisis get to the point that it did," Geithner retorted. "And we would have had a stronger fiscal position if we'd had eight years of paying for our commitments, not borrowing."
Later in the hearing another Texas Republican also called for Geithner to go.
Republican Rep. Burgess Calls for Geithner to Go
"I don't think that you should be fired," Rep. Michael Burgess told the Treasury boss. "I thought you never should have been hired."
"My constituents – they're not just anxious, they are mad," Burgess continued. "They are fighting mad about what's happened in the economy, They are fighting mad about the stimulus.
"They're fighting mad about how many jobs we created in Arizona's ninth district – you know a member of Congress from Arizona's ninth district? They won't have a ninth district until after redistricting next year. They only have eight right now. This kind of nonsense is what the American people are seeing and that's why they're so upset," Burgess said.
Two Democratic lawmakers – Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland – later voiced their support for Geithner, with Cummings saying, "I'm glad you're there."