Geithner: GOP just wrangling for leverage on financial bill

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Sunday that Senate Republicans are stalling debate on the financial reform bill because they want to gain leverage on the final outcome of the measure. 

Geithner said as many administration officials, Senate Democrats and Republicans have said for the last several weeks -- that the GOP wants to support a reform bill -- but gave more insight into why all GOP senators are blocking a move to open debate on the Senate floor.

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Asked on CNN about getting Republican support for the measure, the Treasury secretary said "You know, but they're doing what you would expect, and I think you'd do the same thing in their -- in their shoes, is that they're trying to maximize the chance they have leverage still to pull this bill in certain directions."

Geithner's comments underscore the Obama administration's confidence that Republicans will support the bill. That would contrast the financial reform bill with the healthcare legislation that divided Congress upon party lines. 

Republicans have objected to the financial bill, saying that it does not end "too big to fail" financial firms and that it ensures "permanent bailouts" for large Wall Street firms. The GOP has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying that all 41 GOP senators oppose the bill but that they want to continue negotiating its terms. 

Democrats need at least one Republican in the Senate to vote to move forward on the bill.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee Richard Shelby (Ala.) said Sunday that both sides are very close to an agreement, but that none yet has been reached ahead of a key vote to move the bill forward Monday.

Geithner said that momentum behind bipartisan negotiations will likely result in a bill both sides can support. But he has said that the White House will not accept a bill that is watered down simply to please Republicans.

"Based on all my conversations -- and I think if you listen carefully to the tone in Washington just over the last couple of days, I think there's been a substantial shift, and there -- I think, really, on balance, there are a very substantial number of Republicans who want to be for a strong set of reforms," he said. "And, again, I say this on the basis of what we tell -- what they tell me in private."