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Geithner's exit to leave problem for Obama

WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geith-ner's plan to leave near the end of January puts the White House in a tricky spot, depriving the Obama administration of its longest-serving economic adviser for its next fiscal showdown with Congress.

Geithner, who spent his years as Treasury secretary battling the financial crisis and fighting with Republican lawmakers in 2011 over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, has wanted to leave government service for some time.

The Treasury Department said Geithner would stick to his previously announced schedule to stay until around the Jan. 21 inauguration.

Obama chose Geithner to lead the just-ended negotiations to avert the Dec. 31 "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes that threatened to push the economy back into recession. But the deal, which preserved most of the Bush-era tax breaks for Americans, sets up a series of crucial fiscal deadlines by delaying automatic spending cuts until March 1 and not increasing the government's borrowing limit.

That puts Obama in the tough spot of nominating another Treasury secretary and asking the Senate to approve his choice in the middle of another budget battle.

Geithner has already resorted to using emergency measures to give the Treasury Department the ability to pay government bills and avoid a damaging debt default.

The country hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit Dec. 31, and the Treasury is on track to run out of funds in February. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling on time, the United States would default on its debt payments and roil markets worldwide.

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