Politico-Freshman Republicans Leave Meeting with Timothy Geithner Frustrated
By Jake Sherman and Marin Cogan
House Republican freshmen emerged from a closed meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with much of the same frustration they had after the White House meeting yesterday, saying they do not expect a plan from the White House on massive spending cuts to accompany the debt hike.
The hang-up from Republican newbies mirrored the concern from leadership -- that President Barack Obama has not put forth a plan to raise the debt ceiling.
Rep. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who is a member of the GOP leadership, said, "We need the specificity and the details from the other side for us to have a serious conversation about any increase in the debt ceiling."
Others were disappointed that Geithner largely held to the administration's line, rather than looking for common ground with the members.
"I don't think it we really made any progress. What is obvious to me is that we're really far apart on where we need to go and what we need to do. And it did seem like he was there more to plead the president's case than to listen to us," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger. "He talked about letting the [Bush] tax cuts expires and raising taxes and that for us is a non starter.
Several sources present at the meeting with Geithner said he called for tax hikes to equal $1 trillion and $2 trillion in spending cuts, including changes to the Medicare reimbusement rate to doctors. Geithner also told the freshmen that the nation would save $1 trillion on interest payments by spending less.
Rep. David Schweikert, an Arizona freshman, echoed the concerns some of his colleagues had yesterday about the political rhetoric they felt the secretary used.
"I'm fine with Geithner, I accept he's a smart guy," Schweikert said. "What's tough is on occasion you can see him having an honest conversation about financial monetary policy and in the next paragraph stepping into a role as political official, sometimes weaving between facts and rhetoric. That seems to just be the nature of Washington."
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is putting that concern on paper. Black said she plans to send Obama a letter to ask for a "specific plan" that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, in addition to a plan from the administration on what they will do if the statutory debt cap is reached.
Geithner, who has been meeting with Congressional lawmakers as the debt debate rages on, said the government will "avoid a default crisis" and will "reach agreement on our long-term fiscal plan." He also admitted that, as Treasury secretary, he was required to borrow far more money than he'd like to--a comment that helped placate some of the conservative members.
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), the class president, said "everything that we got in there from him is a step in the right direction that we're having an open and honest dialogue in how we move forward."
Still, many members in the class were not so optimistic. "Just spent 30min w/ Geithner and I'm disgusted and discouraged. We can't roll over & settle the way he wants us 2," Tea Party freshman Joe Walsh tweeted just after the meeting.
"It's good that he reached out," Kinzinger said. "But I'm not sure how far we really got."