Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said he is optimistic a deal on averting the fiscal cliff could be reached within weeks after talks today between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders.
“It was a good meeting, and the tone was very good,” Geithner said in an interview today in Washington on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “I think this is doable within several weeks.”
“This is within our grasp, within our reach,” he said. “It’s not that complicated.”
Geithner said that the fiscal cliff is creating a “huge cloud of uncertainty” for the economy that is harming consumer confidence. Asked if the cliff threatens to curb spending during the Christmas shopping season, he said: “You’d want to do it as soon as you can.”
He repeated the administration’s calls for an immediate extension of middle-class tax cuts, and said cuts for the highest earners should be allowed to expire. He said a deal shouldn’t be delayed.
“I think deferring things doesn’t work,” he said. “You know, we’ve had several periods now where there was a choice made to defer.”
Geithner and Obama began a new round of deficit-reduction talks today with top Republicans and Democrats in a bid to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, the combination of $607 billion of tax increases and spending cuts that threatens to throw the country into a recession next year. House Speaker John Boehner said after the White House talks that Republicans are willing to put revenue on the table in exchange for spending cuts.
“You have to look at how much revenue do you need to make sure you have a balanced deal to get this back to the point we’re living within our means,” Geithner said in the interview. “That’s going to require a substantial amount of revenue, we think in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion to $1.6 trillion.”
The administration also must negotiate to increase the federal debt ceiling. The Treasury said Oct. 31 it expects to reach the limit near the end of this year and can take “extraordinary measures” to meet its payment obligations “until early in 2013.”
Geithner said today the debt ceiling should be eliminated, and “the sooner the better.”
Geithner, 51, will stay in his post through Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 21 as the administration and Congress negotiate, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Nov. 9. Geithner had said before the election that he doesn’t plan to stay at the Treasury for a second Obama term.
Geithner said today he’s “very confident that we’re going to get enough done in these next few weeks” and that Obama will “have a successor in place so I’ll be able to go off and do some other things.”
Geithner said in June 2011 he would start commuting to Washington from New York because his son was returning there to finish high school. He told White House officials that he was considering leaving office once a deal to raise last year’s debt limit was reached in Congress. Obama asked him to stay and Geithner agreed to remain at the Treasury at least through the 2012 election.
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