For Geithner, an Ascent With Dissent

Tim Geithner received 34
Tim Geithner received 34 "nay" votes in being confirmed as President Obama's Treasury secretary, but so what? Bill Clinton appointee Larry Summers, top left, got two, and so did Ronald Reagan pick Nicholas Brady, center left. Jimmy Carter appointee G. William Miller, bottom left, got one as well. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A hearty Loop congratulations to new Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, not only for his Senate confirmation but also for setting the modern indoor record for negative votes for a Treasury secretary (34).

For the most part, Geithner's predecessors, going back 32 years to the Carter administration, were confirmed by voice votes or unanimously. A couple, Lawrence H. Summers and Nicholas F. Brady, garnered two nays, and G. William Miller managed to get one.

But Geithner, largely on the strength of his failure to pay $43,000 in taxes, was barely able to avoid a filibuster.

On the other hand, at least he was confirmed -- a feat that eluded Roger B. Taney in 1834, when he was rejected by a vote of 28 to 18, according to the Senate historian's office. He went on, of course, to become chief justice of the United States, a job in which he authored the heinous Dred Scott decision of 1857 that ruled that African Americans could never be citizens of the United States.

Another historic loser was Caleb Cushing, nominated in 1843 by President John Tyler. Cushing had the honor of being rejected by the Senate three times, each time getting a smaller vote before finally being crushed 29 to 2. Cushing, who had been a House member, later became ambassador to China and attorney general. Another Tyler nominee, James S. Green, was rejected in 1844 on an unrecorded vote.

Since the Carter administration, though, most Cabinet secretaries have either been confirmed easily or forced to withdraw, often kicking and screaming, when it became clear that the votes weren't there. President Bush I Pentagon nominee John Tower was the only one rejected outright, 53 to 47.

Of all Cabinet jobs, attorney general is usually the most contentious nomination in recent times, picking up impressive negative votes. Geithner bested President Ronald Reagan's nominee to lead the Justice Department, Edwin Meese III, who got only 31 nays, but Geithner got fewer negative votes than attorneys general John D. Ashcroft (42), Alberto R. Gonzales (36) and Michael B. Mukasey (40).

Holder, Making Aye Contact

No doubt daunted by the possibility of going mano a mano with Barbra Streisand, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced yesterday that he will vote to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general. Streisand, we noted yesterday, had launched an effort to rally liberals on Holder's behalf to push for his confirmation.

After weeks of demanding intense vetting of Holder's credentials, Specter made his move on the eve of the committee's scheduled vote -- a vote delayed for a week at the request of GOP members. Specter, who had raised questions about Holder's role in a pair of controversial clemency decisions in the Clinton days, sent dozens of written questions to Holder and met with him privately late last week, our colleague Carrie Johnson reports.

Holder already had won support from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

The Bunker Mentality Remains

With President Obama perhaps fixing to pull troops out of Iraq in the next year or two, the Army is trying to ensure that some usable infrastructure remains in place to help the fledgling democracy survive.

For example, we got a notice saying the Joint Contracting Command Iraq, Mission Support Division, is looking for "Golf Driving Range Equipment" for delivery to Phoenix Base in the Green Zone.

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