The Senate Finance Committee has approved President Obama's nominee to be Treasury Secretary paving the way for his confirmation by the full Senate. President Obama is hoping for a quick confirmation of his top financial adviser, so that his administration can get to work on a massive economic recovery plan.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 18 to 5 to approve Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, despite a second day of tough comments by several Republican members. All five Senators voting "No" were Republicans.
One of them was Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.
He said he was very disappointed in Geithner's lack of candor in answering questions about his own personal tax history.
"I also cannot vote 'yes' when I believe that as of right now he has not been as candid with me or with this committee as I believe he should have," he said.
Geithner apologized to the panel on Wednesday for what he called "careless mistakes" in failing to pay $34,000 of taxes earlier this decade. The 47-year-old president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank had neglected to pay certain U.S. income taxes when he was employed by the International Monetary Fund.
Among other duties, the Secretary of the Treasury oversees the collection of U.S. federal income taxes.
Another strong opponent of Geithner was Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who blamed Geithner's lack of effectiveness as a regulator for part of the current economic collapse on Wall Street.
"Trillions of dollars in savings held by retired Americans have been destroyed as a result," he said.
Bunning said Mr. Geithner had been involved in just about every flawed bailout action of the Bush administration.
But several Republicans on the panel voted for Mr. Geithner, and experts believe his confirmation by the full Senate is virtually guaranteed. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York expressed the view held by many that Geithner is the person best qualified to lead the Treasury Department at this critical time.
"In these times, our financial system is entering troubled, dangerous and uncharted waters. And there is no navigator more suited for this job by way of intelligence, experience, inclination and temperament than Tim Geithner," he said.
Geithner says the new administration will submit a comprehensive plan for responding to the housing and financial crisis to Congress within the next few weeks. He has called for approval of a separate stimulus plan to revive the economy, which is mired in its worst recession in more than 25 years.
Before becoming head of the New York Fed, Geithner served in a variety of positions at the Treasury Department and has been deeply involved in its international financial operations.