Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C., argued that a heavily Republican Congress should be able to support the Obama administration's proposals for improving the economy.
"We believe there is an overwhelmingly strong economic case, and very broad base political support," for the measures, which include research and development tax credits, infrastructure spending, and a plan to extend all of the Bush tax cuts except those for the wealthiest earners. When asked by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt about the projected Republican wave in the midterms, Geithner said:
"There is no reason why that package of economic reforms can't be enacted by this Congress given the challenges we face."
Geithner challenged Republicans to govern responsibly by working with the administration.
"We're proposing things that are very good for growth, and should be feasible, politically, for a Republican Congress that I think is now going to face the challenge of feeling more responsible for the country's future."
While he did not criticize Republicans, Geithner called on them to take greater responsibility.
"These are things we need Congress to act on, and for Congress to act we need Republicans who can work with us," he said. "We're gonna have to hold them to that."
Discussing both the administration's performance so far and its plans going forward, Geithner repeatedly cited examples where bipartisan cooperation had led to productive economic policies and where Congressional gridlock had delayed what he described as necessary reforms. He praised Republicans for supporting some past economic efforts and called Obama's cooperation with the outgoing Bush administration during transition "the noble and important thing to do."
Geithner said of Troubled Asset Relief Program, "I think that was the last program that had a meaningful level of bipartisan support," adding that passing TARP was deeply difficult politically. He warned that trying to "drift through" the ongoing economic problems would ultimately be "much more expensive and much more costly to the country." Geithner added, "The challenges we now face going forward are very different than the challenges we faced two years ago. We're still in a crisis by any broad sense, but we're not in a global financial panic."
When asked about the Republican "pledge," Geithner replied, "It's hard to evaluate because it's really just a press release, it's not really an economic policy."
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