Obama Faces New Attack, GOP Alarmed By Lack of Nominees

By Lindsey Ellerson

Mar 9, 2009 4:21pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: As the economy sputters near or over a precipice, the Treasury Department is juggling the TARP, its part of the stimulus, the perilous situation of the American banks, the ongoing AIG saga and the domestic car companies. And they’re doing all that without a full roster. Of the 18 Treasury Department officials who require congressional confirmation, only one, Secretary Tim Geithner, has been confirmed. And while three assistant secretaries were nominated over the weekend, their confirmation hearings have not been set. "Part of the problem may be attributed to the treasury secretary’s boss, our impressive new president who is nevertheless subject to the criticism that is he living over the store but not minding it," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said on the Senate floor Monday. "Presidents have many problems to solve, but no one ever suggested that the wisest course is to try to solve them all at once." Much of the problem stems from Geithner, who was lambasted during his confirmation for back taxes he paid on income he got while an employee for the IMF. Alexander voted against Geithner’s nomination and, to be fair, now opens himself up to criticism that he is trying to have criticize the lack of Obama nominees while trying to block them. But the resulting confirmation gauntlet has scuttled several high-profile appointments and may have caused some potential nominees to withdraw from consideration. Press reports have Geithner, frazzled, unable to rely on a chosen team. Alexander pointed to former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who will have his confirmation to be U.S. trade representative late this afternoon before the Senate Finance Committee as someone whose nomination has been held up for "irrelevant" tax issues. Kirk has paid back taxes for speaking fees that he gave to charity. "Now, common sense suggests that his tax preparer thought that what Mr. Kirk did was appropriate," said Alexander, "After all, he didn’t keep the money. The IRS apparently has a more convoluted rule. In any event, it is irrelevant to his suit ability to the trade nominee." Alexander called for a "gang" of senators to consider the problem and propose language to make the confirmation process easier for Obama and future presidents. "Maybe we can make this grand bargain with our new president. If you will keep your eye on the ball, in this case fixing the banks so the economy can begin moving again, we will work in a bipartisan way to make it easier for you and for future presidents to assemble promptly a team and govern us properly," Alexander said.

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