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Other Obama Picks Appear At Hearings


There were four other confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill today. It was smooth sailing for each of them as well.


But behind closed doors, Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner met with senators amid reports that he did not pay some personal taxes and failed to check the immigration status of a housekeeper.

NORRIS: The Obama transition team says these issues were honest mistakes that were quickly addressed by Geithner. Geithner is the head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, and he has his confirmation hearing later this week.

BLOCK: During today's hearings, one big topic was the current financial crisis. Peter Orszag is Barack Obama's choice to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget. He spoke to the Senate Budget Committee and was blunt about the grim state of the economy.

Dr. PETER ORSZAG (Appointee, Director, White House Office of Management and Budget, Barack Obama Administration): In the short run, we face the most severe economic crisis that has occurred since the Great Depression. Over the medium and long run, we face the prospect of large and growing deficits that are unsustainable. These twin challenges of economic recovery and fiscal responsibility will make the job of OMB particularly challenging. But again, if confirmed, I relish and look forward to attempting to meet those challenges.

BLOCK: That's Peter Orszag, nominated to be director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

NORRIS: Shaun Donovan talked about another part of the faltering economy. He's New York City's housing commissioner, and President-elect Obama's choice for secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Mr. SHAUN DONOVAN (Appointee, Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Barack Obama Administration): In the past, owning a home was emblematic of financial success. Sadly, we know that the landscape has changed. As President-elect Obama has said, the housing crisis has shaken not only the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American dream.

NORRIS: That's Shaun Donovan, nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development, on Capitol Hill today.

BLOCK: To education now and Chicago's schools chief, Arne Duncan. He's Mr. Obama's pick for education secretary. At his hearing today, Duncan talked about what he calls the Obama Effect.

Mr. ARNE DUNCAN (Appointee, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, Barack Obama Administration): What we have with the president-elect and his wife are two people who are living symbols, who embody the value of education. And children throughout our country today look at those two and say that if they worked hard, I can do it, too. And what you see is children saying not just that I want to be the president like the president-elect, they're saying, I want to be smart like the president-elect. And so we have a time collectively as a country to capitalize on something I think is simply extraordinary. Never before has being smart been so cool.

BLOCK: That's Arne Duncan, the president-elect's choice for secretary of education.

NORRIS: Finally, to the nominee for energy secretary, physicist Steven Chu. Chu won a Nobel Prize for his work on renewable energy and climate change. Today, he emphasized engaging other countries on those matters.

Dr. STEVEN CHU (Physicist; Appointee, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy, Barack Obama Administration): We need to start working with China and India to, actually, concurrently develop some of the technologies, starting with efficiencies. If we can develop, invent new methods of - for example, building efficiencies that China can use as they build their new cities, it's important that the United States and others help China do it right. I think all the countries of the world have to be part of this overall thing because it is the world we're talking about.

NORRIS: Physicist Steven Chu, Mr. Obama's pick to head the Department of Energy.

BLOCK: All five nominees on Capitol Hill today faced specific questions about policy, and each received a largely friendly reception.

NORRIS: All are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate next week after President-elect Obama is sworn in. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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