Geithner Asks Democrats for Patience Over Grim Economy

WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged House Democrats to be patient with President Obama's young administration on Monday as lawmakers conveyed the frustrations of their economically anxious constituents.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., said her colleague, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., implored Geithner: "Hurry, whatever you're doing, please hurry."

Geithner addressed House Democratic members for nearly two hours Monday evening in a closed session in the Capitol. He sought to reassure them that Obama's administration has acted quickly to respond to the recession and the financial crisis.

"The members of the caucus clearly raised great concerns that the American people have about the amounts of money involved and the effectiveness of that money," House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said.

Asked whether he was reassured that the administration policies were working, Hoyer said: "Secretary Geithner indicated that he believes that what we're doing is working.

"The problem with working is that that means it's not getting worse," he added. "The boat is not taking on more water, but you haven't yet pumped it out."

Members interviewed after the session described a polite session without rancor. But they said many members reflected the political challenge they faced explaining the policies of a president of their party to a public angry over bank bailouts and an unending recession.

Improving the political climate is crucial if the administration wants to seek further measures from Congress, especially additional money to help the financial sector shed some of the toxic assets that have frozen credit.

"We're stuck in the middle," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. "Some view a growing risk that the politics are deteriorating to the point that any further response can't pass Congress, even though from a financial standpoint a further response is highly warranted."

The Obama administration has not requested additional money yet. But it included a $250 billion financial industry "placeholder" in its budget. The money represents the cost to the government of using up to $750 billion to purchase bank assets.

Geithner told lawmakers he planned to announce his economic team for Treasury this week. Democratic officials said Geithner was questioned about the adequacy of staffing at the department. In a statement Sunday, Obama announced the nomination of three assistant secretaries to Geithner.