Quick Confirmation Seen for Paulson as Treasury Secretary

Henry Paulson Jr. met Monday with the head of the Senate Finance Committee, who predicted that President Bush's selection as Treasury secretary could be confirmed and on the job by early July.

Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he and Paulson had a productive meeting and that he believed the nomination could win Senate approval before Congress leaves for the July 4 break.

Grassley praised Paulson, chief executive of the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs, for the "vast amount of experience" he will bring to the job. The 45-minute meeting marked the beginning of a round of courtesy visits Paulson will make in coming days to hear the concerns of senators.

With his approval rating at record lows despite strong economic growth and low unemployment, Bush announced last week that he was turning to Paulson to replace Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose departure had been rumored for more than a year.

By choosing a 32-year veteran of one of Wall Street's premier investment houses, the administration is hoping for the same economic credibility that President Clinton gained when he picked Robert Rubin, one of Paulson's predecessors at Goldman Sachs, as one of his Treasury secretaries.

Paulson's selection was the latest shake-up for Bush, who in recent weeks has tapped his budget director to become the new White House chief of staff, moved his trade negotiator to the budget job and replaced the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Paulson did not talk to reporters after his meeting with Grassley.

Grassley said the two covered a wide range of issues from the importance of overhauling the nation's complex tax code to the need to apply pressure to China to revalue its currency as a way of dealing with America's soaring trade deficit.

The administration's nomination of Susan Schwab to replace Rob Portman in the trade job has been held up because of unhappiness by Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., over what Schumer sees as a failure by the administration to pressure China to allow American banks and other financial service companies to operate in China.

Schwab's nomination had cleared Grassley's committee, but a vote expected before Congress left for a weeklong Memorial Day recess was delayed because of Schumer's concerns.

Grassley told reporters he would have a better idea on whether Schwab's nomination could now go forward after Schumer and Schwab hold a planned meeting on Tuesday.