Obama's Transition

NEWS IN BRIEF

January 14, 2009|By FROM SUN NEWS SERVICES

Geithner failed to pay federal taxes

WASHINGTON: President-elect Barack Obama's choice to run the Treasury Department and lead the nation's economic rescue disclosed publicly yesterday that he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes from 2001 to 2004, a last-minute complication that Senate Democrats tried to brush aside as a minor bump on an otherwise smooth path to confirmation.

Timothy Geithner paid most of the past-due taxes days before Obama announced his choice in November, according to materials released by the Senate Finance Committee.

He had paid the remainder of the taxes in 2006, after the IRS sent him a bill.

The still-unpaid taxes were discovered by Obama's transition team while investigating Geithner's background. Obama's staff told senators about the tax issues Dec. 5.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana said he still hoped Geithner could be confirmed on Inauguration Day.

"These errors were not intentional; they were honest mistakes," Baucus said after he and other committee members met with Geithner behind closed doors yesterday.

Republican senators, who might be expected to raise the most significant objections, did not immediately comment.

Chu signals support for variety of energy sources

WASHINGTON: Senators celebrated Steven Chu yesterday as a scientist, administrator and Nobel Prize winner. But in the hearing on his nomination as President-elect Barack Obama's energy secretary, Chu played another, newer role: politician.

Under gentle questioning from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the physicist and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory signaled his support for a variety of energy alternatives - including coal - to America's dependence on imported oil.

Chu told Republicans that he would help fast-track a resurgence of domestic nuclear power and accept oil and gas drilling as part of a broad energy package.

He told Democrats that he would champion solar plants and a "smart grid" that could help bring more wind power to market.

Senate panel heaps praise on Duncan

WASHINGTON: Arne Duncan's Senate confirmation hearing to be education secretary was as much of a kumbaya moment as any appointee to Barack Obama's Cabinet is likely to see.

Duncan, chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, was lavished with praise for his work in Chicago by both Democrats and Republicans at yesterday brief hearing.

"President-elect Obama has made several distinguished Cabinet appointments. I think you're the best," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who served as education secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

With his confirmation virtually assured, the hearing held to review Duncan's qualifications instead became a low-key exchange about how to improve America's schools.

But Duncan, 44, offered few details as to how he would alter federal education policy, particularly the polarizing Bush administration's No Child Left Behind law.

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