Yesterday’s 18-5 vote in the Senate Finance Committee moving Timothy Geithner’s Treasury nomination to the full Senate has been a foregone conclusion (like the Senate confirmation on Monday) despite the revelation that Mr. Geithner didn’t pay some of his income taxes for several years. (He also had a problem about the legal status of his housekeeper, but that soon slipped below the radar as focus concentrated solely on the tax issues.)
Maureen Dowd addressed the offense to simple common sense:
How does a guy on the fast track to be Treasury secretary fail to pay $43,200 worth of federal taxes, or forget to check on the immigration status of a house cleaner — the same sort of upstairs-downstairs slipup that has tripped up other top-drawer prospects on their way to top jobs here? Americans expect the man who’s in charge of the I.R.S. to pay his own taxes.
And The Wall Street Journal raised the disturbing prospect that someone might have been betting on not getting caught until the statute of limitations had run:
As to why Mr. Geithner didn’t pay all his back taxes after the 2006 audit, an Obama aide said the nominee was advised by his accountant that he had no further liability. Senate Finance Committee aides said they were concerned that either Mr. Geithner or his accountant had used the IRS’s statute of limitations to avoid further back-tax payments at the time of the audit. “Some might say it was a character moment,” said one Republican aide.
Now we have the AP report —carried in today’s The New York Times— that accepts Mr. Geithner’s word “mistakes” and substitutes it for “failure”:
The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday cleared the nomination of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary despite unhappiness over his mistakes in paying his taxes.
Geithner paid the back taxes plus interest for the years 2003 and 2004 after being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. But he did not pay taxes he owed for 2001 and 2002, even though he had made the same mistakes for those years, until shortly before he was nominated by Obama last November to be treasury secretary.
And just now on NPR the news summary at the top of the hour reported that Mr. Geithner had been confirmed “despite his delay in paying his taxes.”
At this rate he’ll end up being owed money.