We’re learning more about how the Senate Finance Committee learned about Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner’s tax issues. Turns out all but one of the Republicans on the committee found out about the problem for the first time at a members-only meeting held yesterday at 2:30 p.m. Ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has known since early December that there was an issue with Geithner’s taxes, as has Democratic chairman Sen. Max Baucus, but otherwise the information was very closely held. “I’ve known about it,” Grassley told Iowa reporters on a conference call today. “Senator Baucus has known about it. Nobody else has known about it.”
Grassley added, “I think I’ve got all the information I need. But, you know, I am the only person, as of 12 hours ago, that had access to that information. And I think, in a collegial body like I have, I have a responsibility, at least on the Republican side, to discuss and contact my members and see how they view it as well.”
Some other Republicans on the committee feel they got this information a bit late in the game, especially with Democrats pressing to hold Geithner’s confirmation hearing on Friday. So look for the hearing to be held next week.
And despite some commentary downplaying the seriousness of the tax issue, it’s fair to say that senators want a little time to figure it out before they pronounce it just a hiccup in an otherwise confirmable nomination. It might, in the end, turn out to be just that, but senators want to satisfy themselves that they know what happened. Certainly Grassley, who knows the most about it, is not entirely satisfied. “It’s a little disconcerting,” he told the Iowa reporters this morning. “I’m not saying at this point it’s disqualifying. But it’s a little more important about income tax for somebody that’s overseeing the IRS than there is, maybe, for the Secretary of Agriculture, as an example.”