President-elect Barack Obama has moved with unusual speed to select officials for his administration, and senior Democratic officials say he intends to name Timothy Geithner as his treasury secretary as soon as Monday.
It was not clear when Obama intended to formally unveil any of his other picks for the administration that takes office at the stroke of noon on Jan. 20. One Democrat said John Podesta, a leader of Obama’s transition team, had told Senate aides on Friday that Obama hoped for speedy confirmation so the new administration could get to work quickly thereafter.
Word of Geithner’s likely selection emerged as New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in line to become secretary of state, said through a spokesman that discussions were on track for her appointment but no final arrangement had been made.
Obama’s choice for attorney general, a third critical post as the president-elect rounds out his top Cabinet echelon, is Eric Holder. He held the No. 2 slot in the Justice Department in President Bill Clinton’s administration.
The president-elect plans to announce Geithner’s appointment in Chicago on Monday, barring an unforeseen snag in a background check that is nearly complete, said one of the senior officials, both of whom were familiar with the deliberations. He’s the president of the New York Federal Reserve.
If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Geithner, 47, would assume chief responsibility for tackling an economic slowdown and credit crunch that threaten to create the deepest recession in more than a generation. In his current post in New York, he has played a key role in the government’s response to the financial crisis and has worked closely with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.
As a Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, Geithner (pronounced GITE-ner) dealt with international financial crises and played a major part in negotiating assistance packages for South Korea and Brazil.
Lawrence Summers, a former treasury secretary and one-time Harvard University president, was being considered as an economic adviser. Economic posts also seemed likely for Obama’s top two economic advisers during his campaign, Austan Goolsbee and Jason Furman.
Officials said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had emerged as a likely pick as commerce secretary, although he had hoped to be secretary of state. Like Clinton, he was a rival of Obama’s for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter. He dropped out after the early contests, though, and soon threw his support behind the eventual winner.
The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the anticipated appointments.
The president-elect has largely stayed out of public view since his election on Nov. 4, preferring to work quietly with aides and Vice President-elect Joe Biden in a suite of offices in downtown Chicago.
Obama faces unusual challenges and has moved quickly in assembling his team. Former President George H.W. Bush made his first Cabinet pick the day after his election in 1988, but former President Clinton did not name any members until after Thanksgiving. President George W. Bush’s transition was delayed by the contested result in Florida.
While speculation has been rampant about most top-level appointments, there has been relatively little about Obama’s choice for defense secretary. His aides encouraged speculation before the election that Robert Gates, who now holds the position, would remain in office for an interim period.
Other Cabinet selections so far include former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota as secretary of health and human services and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, likely to be named as secretary of the Homeland Security Department.
Napolitano was an early supporter of candidate Obama among the ranks of Democratic governors, as was Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Sebelius has figured prominently in recent days in speculation as possible secretary of labor.
Additionally, retired Gen. James Jones, a former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, was among those under consideration for national security adviser. James Steinberg, an Obama campaign aide who served in Clinton’s White House, was another possibility, according to officials.
Obama has repeatedly referred to the economic crisis as the top priority for his new administration.
Geithner held posts in the Treasury Department under three administrations and five secretaries before moving to the New York Fed in 2003. He also held positions at the International Monetary Fund and was employed at the private firm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The Dow Jones industrials soared by nearly 500 points late in the day Friday, a sharp rise that coincided with the first reports of Geithner’s possible appointment.
Associated Press writer David Espo contributed to this report.