Democratic Senators Tepid on Geithner Support

Mar 20, 2009 6:16pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:  With President Obama pronouncing his “complete confidence” in Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s leadership, we thought it might be interesting to ask members of the Senate Democratic caucus whether they agree. The answer? When their offices were contacted by ABC News, fewer than half of Senate Democrats were willing to echo the president. Of the 58 senators in the caucus — 56 Democrats and two independents — 21 answered “yes” when we asked their offices whether they have “complete confidence” in Geithner. Only one of the senators — independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont — answered “no.” Sanders voted against Geithner’s confirmation, and said through a spokesman that he sees the secretary as “part of the problem.” As for the remaining senators, quite a few didn’t respond, or a press representative said they couldn’t reach the senator to get a response. (We first made contact with all Senate offices Thursday afternoon, and gave them until Friday afternoon to respond.) Some, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said they never respond to surveys like this. Nonetheless, a Reid spokesman said it’s fair to characterize Reid’s support for Geithner as “complete confidence.” Then there’s another group that’s firmly on the fence on Geithner — at least publicly. The office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., responded by saying: “Our President has stated his support for Secretary Geithner.” The office of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., wouldn’t answer "yes" or "no," but pointed out: “Senator Byrd did not support Mr. Geithner as Treasury Secretary.” The 21 senators who answered “yes” to our query: Baucus, Bennet, Bingaman, Boxer, Burris, Cardin, Carper, Dodd, Durbin, Gillibrand, Kerry, Klobuchar, Landrieu, Lautenberg, McCaskill, Menendez, Leahy, Reed, Schumer, Shaheen, and Warner. Even in the group expressing "complete confidence," we got some responses indicating that may not always be the case. Said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.: “While he exercised extremely poor judgment about the AIG bonuses and must lead the effort to recoup those bonuses, I remain supportive of the Secretary for now.” Said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.: “He has the President’s support and backing, and he has mine at this point.” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: "I have total confidence in President Obama and I will support the team he puts together as long as he has confidence in them." Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.: "Obviously there are lots of questions, including about the handling of the AIG bonuses, but the president’s Treasury secretary should be given a chance to do his job." This is all very unscientific. Then again, these are Democratic senators being asked whether they have full faith in a Democratic president’s Cabinet secretary, just two months into an administration. The president has gone out repeatedly in recent days to voice his full support for Geithner. It does seem to underscore the extreme scrutiny being applied to the president’s Treasury secretary in the wake of this week’s revelations surrounding AIG bonuses. Few lawmakers in either party are calling for his head, but his support on Capitol Hill is clearly not as strong as it is in the White House. ABC News’ Sara Just, Jonathan Greenberger, Jennifer Parker, Courtney Cohen, Mary Bruce, Ferdous Al-Faruque, Lindsey Ellerson, Teddy Davis, Caitlin Taylor, and Huma Khan contributed to this report.

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