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Geithner contrasts Obama budget with 'alternatives'

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 Click on photo to enlarge or download: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appears before the House Budget committee Thursday to testify about the president's budget. Geithner aggressively defended the administration's policies and compared them unfavorably to policies offered by GOP lawmakers. SHFWire photo by Frank BumbClick on photo to enlarge or download: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appears before the House Budget committee Thursday to testify about the president's budget. Geithner aggressively defended the administration's policies and compared them unfavorably to policies offered by GOP lawmakers. SHFWire photo by Frank BumbWASHINGTON - Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner attempted to deflect criticism of the president's budget by taking aim at Republican proposals and policies.

"You should judge our plan against those alternatives," Geithner said Thursday in testimony before the House Budget Committee. He testified before the Senate on Tuesday.

Sparring with  Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., over the administration’s 2013 fiscal plan, Geithner rejected criticisms that the budget did not do enough to address the country's long-term debt.

"You're showing that you have no plan to avert a debt crisis," Ryan said.

But Geithner argued that gridlock on current issues takes precedence over future problems.

"If we can't agree on how to solve the problems of the next 10 years, then why are you focused on the next 100 years?" Geithner said during the heated exchange.

Also at issue was  tax reform. The president's budget would increase tax revenues by $1.9 trillion, primarily by increasing the marginal tax rate on high-income households.

Geithner has made previous comments that he supports lowering rates and broadening the tax base. But GOP  lawmakers pointed to the budget's increase of rates and keeping the current framework.

"The system is too complex today, and you're bringing us an even more complex system," Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., said. "Where is your tax reform plan?"

"If you want to bludgeon me into admitting that we're not going to give a tax reform plan in this budget, I confess," Geithner shot back.

Geithner repeatedly emphasized that the administration wants to take a "balanced approach" in tackling the deficit by increasing revenue through taxation and cutting spending in targeted areas while still maintaining "key investments."

"We have to govern with limited resources and use those resources more wisely," Geithner said.

But Geithner took issue with the Republicans’ aversion to tax increases, even on high-income earners.

"You can not govern responsibly if you commit to never raise taxes," Geithner said.

Reach reporter Frank Bumb at bumbf@shns.com or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

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