U.S. Senator Jim Bunning asked a Treasury Department official the question other lawmakers had avoided at a banking committee hearing on Wednesday — so, what about that profanity-laced tirade by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner?
Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Barr, on hand to testify about credit rating agencies, played down the drama of Geithner’s widely reported “conversation” on Friday with regulators who were refusing to toe the Obama administration’s financial reform line.
Barr said he attended the meeting in question, where sources said Geithner used expletives in urging cooperation from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others.
“The secretary made clear the regulators are free to defend their own agency prerogatives. They’re independent agencies … We had a long discussion about macro-prudential versus micro-prudential regulation, the kind of conversation that we have had with them on many occasions,” Barr said.
But Bunning, a Kentucky Republican known for his bluntness, wasn’t buying this bland description of a closed-door session that sources described as tense and uncomfortable.
Under pressure from Bunning, Barr replied, “I won’t characterize the exact verbiage that was used … senator, you will not be surprised to learn that in Treasury, as occassionally up on the Hill, there’s some colorful language.”
Said Bunning, “I’ve been accused of that. I understand.”