Tags: geithner | alone | treasury

Geithner: Alone, Still Looking for Assistants

Sunday, 08 Mar 2009 03:41 PM

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is practically alone on the job, working night and day to cope with the worst economic downturn in decades.

Of the 15 key Treasury Department positions that require Senate confirmation, only one has been filled. Stuart Levey, a leftover from the previous administration, who as under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, is not central to the crisis management however.

Unemployment figures which revealed Friday that 651,000 jobs were lost in February, showed the recession is running ever deeper, but Geithner, who started work in late January, has no deputy secretary, no under secretaries for international affairs and no deputy under secretaries.

Annette Nazareth, who had been expected to be chosen as deputy secretary -- Geithner's top aide -- has withdrawn her name, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition, citing people familiar with the matter.

The former Security Exchange Commission head "withdrew in large part because of the long vetting process" President Barack Obama has put in place to choose members of his government, the daily said.

Geithner's choice for undersecretary for international affairs, Caroline Atkinson, also took her name out of the running, only weeks ahead of the April 2, Group of 20 developed and developing nations summit in London.

To help Geithner on international financial matters, Treasury has provisionally hired Ted Truman, an economist at the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington, according to a Treasury official.

Truman was Geithner's assistant at Treasury when he served as under secretary for international affairs in the late 1990s.

The 47-year-old Geithner, a former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was involved with the economic recovery efforts by President George W. Bush, but some experts think his plate may be too full this time.

President Barack Obama's chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, told CNBC on Friday that Geithner "is putting together a team as fast as he can ... work is going on night and day."

Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman and now head of the newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board, told a February 26 Congress hearing that it was "shameful" Geithner had no assistants.

"He shouldn't be sitting there alone ... it really is an unfortunate situation."

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday, Senator Tom Carper told Geithner, "obviously, you need help," eliciting from the treasury secretary that he saw his family "less than I would like."

Treasury spokesman Isaac Baker denied there were "vetting problems or delays in the process" for nominees at his department.

"With more than 50 political appointees already hard at work, the department is ahead of staffing levels from previous administrations" in the same time frame, he said, highlighting the "unprecedented level of action to strengthen our economy" already taken by the Treasury Department.

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