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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's fate unclear after debt deal

August 4, 2011 |  9:19 am

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Now that the federal debt ceiling has been raised, the financial policy question in Washington has shifted from "default or no default" to "depart or no depart" as Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner decides if he will stick around for the rest of President Obama's term.

Geithner, the last remaining member of Obama's top-level economic team, has been considering whether to leave the position. And despite a New York Times story Thursday saying that he was expected to stay, Geithner apparently still is mulling his options.

Obama administration officials are publicly mum on Geithner's status, but point to comments he made in a TV interview Tuesday that he had not yet made a decision.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos pressed Geithner on reports that he would leave once a debt-ceiling deal was done.

"Is it fair to assume that now that it's done, you'll be leaving relatively soon?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"No, I haven't made that decision yet," Geithner said. "And, you know, we've got a lot of challenges, the president has got a lot of challenges. And, you know, I've got other pressures on me too. But I'll make that decision at the right moment. "
 
The White House does not want to lose Geithner, who has become Obama's top economic advisor with the departure of Lawrence Summers at the end of last year. The economy is veering dangerously close to a double-dip recession, the stock market has been tanking and lawmakers are set to tackle spending cuts and tax reform this fall as part of the debt-ceiling deal.

In addition, partisan tensions are so high that it would be extremely difficult to get a replacement for Geithner confirmed in the Senate. That would leave a vital position to be filled by an acting head during a crucial period both for the economy and Obama's 2012 reelection effort.

But Geithner has personal pressures on him. His son is returning to New York in the fall for his last year of high school, meaning "I'm going to be commuting for a while," Geithner said in June in disputing a report that he was preparing to leave after a debt-ceiling deal was done.

Nevertheless, Washington is speculating about possible replacements. The New York Times mentioned four names that others have suggested as well -- Roger Altman, who served as a top Treasury official during the Clinton administration; Erskine Bowles, another former Clinton official who co-chaired Obama's fiscal commission; Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan Chase; and Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric Co. and head of Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Another potential successor is Jon Corzine, the former senator and New Jersey governor who was a Goldman Sachs executive. He was in the news this week because a debt offering by MF Global, where Corzine is now chief executive, included a clause that would trigger a higher interest rate if Corzine is appointed by the president to "a federal position" and confirmed by the Senate.

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 -- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner at the White House on Tuesday for President Obama's statement on passage of the debt-ceiling legislation. Credit: Getty Images.

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