in Deficit Reduction Negotiations
The Wall Street Journal
The White House has tapped the Treasury secretary as its lead negotiator in deficit-reduction talks with Congress, giving Mr. Geithner about a month to help cut a deal before $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts begin in January -- and before his long-planned departure from the administration.
It is a sharp change in role for the 51-year-old, who has been preoccupied largely with the U.S. financial crisis, banking policy and Europe's debt crisis in the past four years.
The move is part of the White House's effort to leave behind the near-catastrophic failure of 2011 talks over raising the debt ceiling. Those negotiations were led by a team, including Jacob Lew, then White House budget chief and now chief of staff, with whom Republicans frequently clashed because they felt Mr. Lew wouldn't agree to major changes to entitlement programs like Medicaid.
At one point, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hung up on Mr. Lew. But people close to the White House effort said the blame lay on Republicans' unwillingness to negotiate major changes to the tax code. They said Mr. Lew has been part of several successful efforts to reduce the deficit, stretching back to his time in the Clinton administration.
Congressional aides and those optimistic about the possibility of the latest talks hope Mr. Geithner is better suited to the role of pragmatic deal maker. One reason is his long relationship with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, for whom balancing the budget was a priority over other Democrat touchstones. "I'm expecting Tim to stand up and say, 'It's not a mystery -- here's what the issues are, and here's where we should go,' " said John Bellows, a former top adviser to Mr. Geithner.
Mr. Geithner, who declined to comment for this story, will be joined by a team of White House budget and tax experts, including Mr. Lew, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, NEC Deputy Director Jason Furman and top congressional-affairs official Rob Nabors.
They will square off with a number of equally seasoned congressional aides to work through sticking points on issues such as taxes and Medicare. Final decisions will likely be made by their bosses, particularly President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
Mr. Geithner has spent much of the past few months preparing for the fiscal debate, as well as for his departure. The likely structure of the talks -- which could resolve some differences by the end of this year and kick other efforts to 2013 -- puts him in the potentially awkward position of negotiating details he won't be able to see through. They include some of the thorniest debates about how the U.S. taxes and spends.
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Editor's Note: So, let us get this straight...The guy who couldn't even get his own personal income tax return to calculate correctly; a guy who has no problem with his boss submitting four straight years of trillion dollar budget deficits, this is the guy that the Obama Administration puts forth to lead deficit reduction negotiations??...Why not find a complete imbecile to do the job?...Oh, wait...
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