By Rachelle Younglai
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans to stay into early next year to help the Obama administration forge a deal with lawmakers to avert the looming fiscal crisis, the White House said on Friday.
The Obama administration and Congress have less than two months to soften the blow from the "fiscal cliff" or $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts that will be sucked out of the economy next year if Washington fails to act to change current law.
"Geithner has indicated that he will stay on through inauguration and he will be, obviously, a key participant in the negotiations around the so-called fiscal cliff issues," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Geithner has long said he planned to step down if President Barack Obama won a second term, after spending grueling time dealing with the 2007-09 financial crisis first as the head of the New York Fed and then as Obama's Treasury chief.
After helping the White House negotiate last year's budget deal to raise the debt limit and cut the deficit, Geithner won over many Republicans who viewed him as reasonable and willing to listen to their concerns.
It is not clear who Obama will pick to replace Geithner but his chief of staff and former budget director, Jack Lew, is seen as a favorite because of his expertise and the fact that budget and tax reform could dominate the administration's domestic agenda.
The White House did not have a specific date for when Geithner would leave and would not comment on whether he would stay until the administration brokered a deal. It also was not clear whether the Senate would have the time to confirm Obama's nominee before inauguration January 21 given the urgency of the fiscal talks and number of other key positions that have to be filled.
Obama will have to move quickly to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is planning to leave, as well as CIA Director David Petraeus, who abruptly resigned on Friday citing an extramarital affair.
Another possible contender for the Treasury job is Erskine Bowles, who was Bill Clinton's chief of staff and was appointed by Obama to help craft a deficit reduction plan.
Roger Altman, a Clinton-era deputy Treasury secretary and co-founder of investment firm Evercore Partners; Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; and Laurence Fink, the chief executive of asset manager BlackRock, are other names that have been floated.
(Reporting By Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Bill Trott)