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Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today voted against confirmation of Treasury of Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner. The Senate confirmed Mr. Geithner 60-34. Prior to the vote, Senator Thune spoke on the floor regarding the confirmation.

The following is the text of Senator Thune’s floor remarks:

“Madam President, our country is going through some very hard economic times. When you are going through hard economic times, you need several things to get you through.

You need the resolve and resilience of the American people. You need the skill, talent and creativity of America’s best and brightest thinkers when it comes to solutions. And, you need wisdom from your political leaders.

You also need one other thing from your political leaders, Madam President, you need the presence of character. You need leaders who will lead by example.

Unfortunately, the hard times in which we find ourselves were borne of excess. We spent too much, borrowed too much, and saved too little.

Corporate CEO’s saw fit to pay themselves huge bonuses while running their companies into the ground. Some very clever people found ways to create new financial instruments, like credit default swaps, making enormous amounts of money for themselves on every transaction, while exposing their companies and their shareholders to trillions of dollars in liabilities.

At the same time, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives were making risky home loans that helped cause this economic crisis we are now facing. Because of the excesses of a few, Madam President, all of the American people are left holding the bag and are being called upon to clean up the mess.

Today we vote on whether to confirm a very smart, able and skilled business leader to help lead America out of the mess we’re in. No one questions Timothy Geithner’s intellect, his knowledge of financial markets, or his skill in managing complex business problems.

He has, as many have said, the type of experience necessary to navigate the turbulent waters that lie ahead. I believe he is smart, I believe he is talented, and I believe he is experienced, but as I said earlier, Madam President, that’s not enough.

There are lots of smart, talented, and experienced people who got us into this mess. It will take more than smarts, talent, and experience to get us out of this mess. It will take leaders who have the trust of the American people because they are willing to lead by example.

I don’t know Tim Geithner’s state of mind when he made the mistake of not paying his payroll taxes between 2001 and 2004. He says it was ‘careless mistakes, avoidable mistakes,’ perhaps so.

But I know one thing, he should have known better. Not just because he is a highly educated businessman who had prior service as a top ranking official at the Treasury Department, but because he was notified several times of his tax liability by his employer at the time and even signed documents acknowledging that he owed the taxes. Again, Madam President, he should have known better.

I don’t judge Tim Geithner as a person. None of us is perfect, we all make mistakes. We all need redemption. But as a Senator, I have a responsibility to vote. I have to vote on whether I believe Tim Geithner should serve as our next Treasury Secretary.

And as a Senator, I am very concerned about the message Mr. Geithner’s confirmation will send to the American people. As Treasury Secretary, he will oversee the IRS and therefore be tasked with enforcing our nation’s tax laws.

Yet for four years he failed to pay his lawful taxes, after being informed of his obligation to do so. If I were to support this nomination, I don’t know how I would explain such a vote to my fellow South Dakotans who work hard and pay their taxes every year – on time and in full.

Madam President, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, these are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary leadership. I couldn’t agree more. But leadership is about more than smarts, and it’s about more than skill.

By all accounts, Mr. Geithner is a good man, and I respect his willingness to serve. I expect he will be confirmed and when he is, he faces a daunting challenge in stabilizing our financial markets and strengthening our economy. Once he is confirmed, I look forward to working with him to meet this challenge, and I hope that he is successful. But for the reasons I have stated, I cannot add my support to his nomination.

Thank you Madam President.”