Geithner May Step Down After Debt Talks

Treasury secretary’s departure would create a political minefield to confirm his replacement

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is considering whether to leave his post once debt talks have concluded, according to a Washington Post report.

Geithner is President Barack Obama’s longest-serving financial advisor; his departure would raise the question of who would succeed him at a time when a number of presidential choices for top financial positions have been blocked in Congress.

While Geithner has said that his decision is not yet made, quoted in the report as saying late on Thursday, “I’m going to be doing this for the foreseeable future,” he is reputed to see the end of the debt talks as a “window” for his departure. Even if debt talks are concluded, there will be other substantial financial issues hanging fire that will then be left to his successor.

Names mentioned as possible candidates to replace him include Roger Erskine, who formerly served during the Clinton administration as deputy Treasury secretary, and Erskine Bowles, late from his position on the Obama deficit reduction commission. Sheila Bair, outgoing chair of the FDIC, is a possibility, as are budget director Jacob J. Lew, Gary Gensler, head of the Commodity Futures  Trading Commission (CFTC), and chief of staff William M. Daley. Laura Tyson, a business school professor at the University of California at Berkeley who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton, has also been mentioned.

However, Geithner’s departure could provide the spectacle of extended confirmation hearings during the 2012 political campaign. Kevin Hassett, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, was quoted in the report saying, “[I]t’s likely to be one of the more dramatic confirmations in modern history.” Because of that, there is still a chance that Obama may convince Geithner to remain.

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