I’ll have a story up in a few hours on today’s Timothy Geithner hearing. There’s a lot of action going on tonight in the Geithner matter, all of it happening under a tight deadline of tomorrow morning as Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus jams the nomination through the committee.
As I’ll explain in the story, at the hearing today Geithner avoided some fundamental questions about his failure to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Geithner came to the hearing with a well-rehearsed self-criticism — he should have been more careful, he told the senators — but he simply would not answer some questions about his state of mind at the time he was not paying his taxes.
Given that, plus a number of other issues involved in the nomination — TARP, anyone? — a number of committee members had a lot of questions they wanted to submit to Geithner in writing. So, after today’s hearing ended sometime between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., Baucus decreed that all written questions had to be submitted by 5 p.m. Geithner is required to submit his answers in writing by 10 a.m. Thursday — that is, tomorrow — and then senators will be given about half an hour to assess those answers before they vote on Geithner’s nomination.
It’s all a mad rush to confirmation. I’ve seen the questions submitted by one senator, and they are quite substantial. There are a lot of them. The idea that they will be answered overnight and fully evaluated within a half-hour is ridiculous. But that, apparently, is what is going to happen.
And how can that happen? Well, the Finance Committee announced its new members today, and the numbers from each party reflect the Democrats’ big win in the 2008 election. Starting tomorrow, there will be 13 Democrats on the committee, and 10 Republicans. That three-vote edge means Democrats can do whatever they want, even if Republicans were united against Geithner (which they’re not). Elections matter — a lot.