White House taps Tim Geithner to run the fiscal-cliff talks

posted at 5:11 pm on November 26, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Call me crazy, but somehow, I’m not at all convinced that assigning Timothy Geithner with the task of mediating between the two dueling parties on the coming fiscal cliff and the need for deficit-reduction is going to much help with moving this already-painful process along.

We’ve got about a month to broker a deal before we nose-dive over the cliff in January, and since Treasury Secretary Geithner has been planning to exit stage left around the start of Obama’s second term, this may be his last major administrative act. The WSJ reports:

The move is part of the White House’s effort to leave behind the near-catastrophic failure of 2011 talks over raising the debt ceiling. Those negotiations were led by a team, including Jacob Lew, then White House budget chief and now chief of staff, with whom Republicans frequently clashed because they felt Mr. Lew wouldn’t agree to major changes to entitlement programs like Medicaid. …

Congressional aides and those optimistic about the possibility of the latest talks hope Mr. Geithner is better suited to the role of pragmatic deal maker. …

Mr. Geithner, who declined to comment for this story, will be joined by a team of White House budget and tax experts, including Mr. Lew, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, NEC Deputy Director Jason Furman and top congressional-affairs official Rob Nabors.

They will square off with a number of equally seasoned congressional aides to work through sticking points on issues such as taxes and Medicare. Final decisions will likely be made by their bosses, particularly President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).

I have serious doubts that the GOP will be any more receptive to proposed leadership from Geithner — he isn’t exactly much for enforcing fiscal restraint, he’s helped the Obama administration peddle the myth that the financial crisis was somehow due to a lack of regulation, and there are lingering trust issues about his own tax-related aptitude. Nothing about this screams “recipe for success” to me.

Speaking of Geithner’s imminent departure, here’s what we might be looking at for our next Treasury secretary, via ABC:

As President Obama prepares for his second term, preparations have begun for the traditional shuffling of the Cabinet, ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. … To replace Geithner at Treasury, White House chief of staff Jack Lew is thought to have the inside track if he wants it, with other possibilities including Neal Wolin, the current Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and Lael Brainard, current Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. Other informed sources suggest that there is consideration being given to a business or CEO type such as investor Roger Altman, former Time-Warner chair Richard Parsons, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.


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