ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: In this case, time is probably not on Tim Geithner’s side.
So far, there’s little threat that President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary won’t be confirmed. The irregularities surrounding his tax filings are embarrassing, but Democratic senators all appear to be falling in line, and key Republicans are also saying the transgression appears minor enough to be forgiven and forgotten.
But that’s before senators return home for a holiday weekend. Capitol Hill aides say what lawmakers hear this weekend — whether they’re greeted by outrage, or yawns — will be critical in determining whether Geithner’s nomination will sail through or not.
The Obama folks want to avoid more reactions like that of Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who has been outspoken in saying he does think Geithner’s mistakes are serious.
“People who work here — who are big shots — should pay their taxes. I think he’s got a real problem with me and my constituents,” Voinovich said.
Already, Geithner’s nomination has been pushed back until next Wednesday — scuttling the Obama team’s hopes of having the economic team in place on day one.
In the meantime, Stephen Colbert and Jay Leno have been cracking jokes about Geithner.
Said Colbert: “Hey, I don’t pay my taxes. Why can’t I be Treasury secretary?”
And Rush Limbaugh, among other influential opinion-makers, is fired up about the topic. On Wednesday, he condemned Obama and those in the media who argue that Geithner’s mistake was a common — and unserious — one.
“Having a guy in charge of the IRS with multiple tax issues might have sullied the Immaculate Inauguration, but now that Barack Obama has determined it won’t be a problem, it won’t be a problem,” Limbaugh said. “But it was close. It was a close one.”
In addition, National Review’s Byron York talks to an International Monetary Fund official who disputes the characterization of Geithner’s tax error — made while an employee of the IMF — as “common.”
“There’s not a high incidence of non-payment of taxes,” spokesman Bill Murray says.
So, how will this all fly, when measured against Geithner’s good relationships in the Hill, and the desire to give Obama the economic team he wants?
As one Republican aide said, this is one of those issues where constituents matter.