Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The confirmation was late, but so were the taxes

The Senate has confirmed Timothy Geithner as secretary of the treasury.

The vote was 60 to 34. When I first heard those numbers, I wondered whether that vote could be taken as evidence that President Obama would be able to put together 60 votes to break any Republican filibuster of any part of his economic program.

But, looking at the details of the roll call vote, I don't think that's the case. The senators did not break out clearly along ideological lines. Four members of the Democratic caucus voted against him; I would describe them as independent-minded left-wingers. Centrist and conservative Republicans were on both sides of the vote.

Broad economic issues did not seem to play a role. The question was how much emphasis to put on the question of late tax payments by the nominee for a job that includes collecting taxes from the rest of us.

I don't think it's clear yet whether 1) Republicans will filibuster the economic proposals, and 2) Democrats can put together a 60-vote coalition to end any such filibuster.

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