By Walter Alarkon - 01/13/10 10:21 PM EST
Treasury Department nominees are holding up their own confirmations, said the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "it's a myth that the committee is asking harder questions" about the tax records of Obama administration nominees.
A report by the non-partisan watchdog Partnership for Public Service said that the Finance Committee's demands for extensive tax records and audits of Treasury nominees has helped delay their Senate confirmation.
Grassley said that the committee's vetting process for the nominees has been the same since 2001.
Nine months into President Barack Obama’s presidency, most of the Treasury Department's 33 high-level nominees had yet to be confirmed, according to a Washington Times analysis.
GOP senators nearly scuttled the confirmation of Timothy Geithner for Treasury secretary after he disclosed that he failed to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes while working at the International Monetary Fund in 2001 and 2002. Geithner paid the taxes six years later.
And Grassley recently held up the confirmation of four nominees — picks for treasury undersecretary for international affairs, assistant treasury secretary for tax policy, assistant treasury secretary for financial markets and deputy undersecretary for international finance. Obama's pick for the international affairs post at Treasury, Lael Brainard, has come under scrutiny for her tax returns.
Grassley said he would allow the nominations to be considered just before the holiday break, but the full Senate, away from Washington since Christmas Eve, has yet to take them up.
The Partnership for Public Service report said the administration also deserves some blame for the slow pace of confirmations because it has imposed stringent requirements on some potential nominees before naming them. The administration has asked for information about old personal and business contacts and has submitted nominees to the FBI for background checks.
Grassley stressed that the Finance Committee asks every nominee for the same materials and it focuses only on the nominee's three most recent tax returns. He said that such reviews were necessary.
"The reason for the tax review is to try to be sure the people enforcing the tax code for the whole country have an appreciation for being in compliance themselves," he said.