The former co-chairman of President Obama's debt panel is being eyed to become U.S. Treasury secretary if Timothy Geithner steps down, officials said.
Erskine Bowles, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, is one of several candidates being considered, senior administration officials told several news organizations Thursday after reports indicated Geithner may seek to resign after a deal is reached to reduce the federal deficit.
Bowles made news Tuesday when he said in an op-ed piece Democrats ought to agree to slash $2 trillion from the federal deficit over 10 years -- a Republican requirement before GOP lawmakers say they'll consider a separate need for Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling.
The $2 trillion in spending cuts would be a "down payment" on "a $4 trillion-plus" economic overhaul that "stabilizes and then reduces our debt as a share of the economy," Bowles and other debt commission Co-Chairman former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., said in The Hill.
Other people being considered to replace Geithner include investment banker and former deputy treasury secretary under Clinton Roger Altman, who in 2009 advised on the $50 billion General Motors bailout; Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen, who headed Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers for two years, and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, who previously served as a Geithner lieutenant, the officials said.
Geithner said in response to the departure possibility he intended to continue his job "for the foreseeable future."
"I live for this work, it's the work I've done and I believe in it," he told Clinton during a question-and-answer session in Chicago as part of a conference organized by the Clinton Global Initiative.
Privately, he has made clear to confidantes he is ready to leave the administration but won't ask to do so without Obama's agreement, The Washington Post and other news organizations said.
He sees the window of opportunity to leave after a debt deal as closing by the 2012 election year, The New York Times reported.
The reports said Geithner wanted to leave in part for family reasons -- his son wants to finish high school in New York.
The Geithners lived in Larchmont, N.Y., when Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, before moving to Bethesda, Md.
"My son's going back to New York to finish high school," Geithner told Clinton. "I'm going to be commuting for a while, but I'm going to be doing this [treasury secretary job] for the foreseeable future."
Clinton said he thought Geithner was doing "a great job in a back-breaking position."
"He may even have a harder job than the secretary of state," said Clinton, whose wife, Hillary Clinton, is Obama's secretary of state.
Geithner, who turns 50 Aug. 18, is the last remaining member of Obama's original economic adviser team that shaped the president's response to the financial crisis.
Geithner recently urged Obama to propose cutting the annual deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years while other advisers argued Obama should focus on the unemployment crisis, the Post said.
When he interviewed with Obama to be treasury secretary, Geithner made the case against joining the administration, saying he would be at odds with Obama's "change" message. But Obama selected him anyway, the Post said.
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