GOP Senator Slams Geithner Rollout: ‘Platitudes,’ Not ‘Clarity’

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) may be a freshman member of the Banking Committee, but his fellow GOPers trust his instincts when it comes to financial issues, particularly after the auto bailout debate. And Corker’s not always the dyed-in-the-wool conservative that he resembles 23 out of 24 hours each day.

Which is why I sought out his response to this morning’s financial rescue speech by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Corker took pains to explain that he hopes to work productively with Geithner, whom he voted to confirm despite a lingering tax flap, before using the same word that Robert Reich did: vague.“Coming out today with such a vague plan indicates to me that there is still dissension in the White House over what to do” to revitalize the economy, Corker told me.

Geithner’s offering of “more platitudes,” the senator added, ended up “roil[ing] the markets today. People are looking for clarity … it would have been much better if [the administration] had waited [to announce a plan] until they had more clarity.”

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Banking Committee, will lead questioning of Geithner on the plan in an hour or so. When I asked if Dodd had hoped for more specifics from Geithner, he replied that “it would be unrealistic to expect him [to do that] … if he had done that, I think he would have lost the audience.”

Late Update: Here’s the response to Geithner from Dodd’s House counterpart, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA). Note that he’s unsatisfied with the administration’s plan to release details of its anti-foreclosure initiative in the next few weeks.

Treasury Secretary Geithner made a number of improvements to the overall TARP program that will increase accountability and transparency of this taxpayer-funded rescue of America’s financial institutions. He should be commended for doing so. I look forward to working with Secretary Geithner and his team on the details of the Financial Stability Plan to produce for the American people a program that is more open, works better, produces more lending and reduces foreclosures. Today, the Secretary acted in much the same way as the TARP Reform and Accountability Act that passed the House in January. While the Secretary’s speech moves in the right direction on all fronts, some specifics remain to be detailed. I do have two particular concerns.

First, I’m concerned that $50 billion to reduce foreclosures understates the amount that we will need, and we need some assurance that, assuming this works as we hope it will, there will be more money available. Secondly, the Secretary said the administration would present details of their foreclosure reduction plan in a few weeks, which is too much time. In the meantime and while we wait for President Obama’s plan, I call on institutions that hold or service mortgages to delay and stop any foreclosure proceedings. I have said in the past that I have been skeptical of the question of a moratorium in general because it wasn’t clear where that would lead us, but in this situation where the Obama Administration will have a specific plan shortly, a moratorium is clearly called for.