U.S. Treasury Secretary Candidate Janet Yellen is urging lawmakers to back President-elect Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package to help avert a deeper crisis.
The United States Senate Finance Committee has begun its confirmation hearing on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s candidate, with Democrats and Republicans immediately vying for the extra support the economy, hammered during the pandemic, needs.
Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, who is expected to take the chair of the committee, told Yellen his top priority was to avoid the mistake made ten years ago when Congress withdrew its support for the committee. economy too soon after the housing crisis and delayed the recovery after the last recession.
Wyden said he hoped the Senate would be able to get Yellen’s appointment approved “as quickly as possible” given the challenges the country faces.
But Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley pointed to all the support that has already been approved and expressed concern that President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration wants to raise taxes and pass massive spending programs.
In her testimony, Yellen called on Congress to do more to help the virus-ravaged US economy, saying the threats of a longer and even worse recession are too great to reduce support now.
“Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now – and long-term scars in the economy later,” Yellen said.
Yellen, who will be the first female treasury secretary in the country’s history, should have little trouble securing approval for a Senate that will be tightly Democratic-controlled once two Democratic senators from Georgia are seated.
In her testimony, Yellen, who was previously the country’s first female Federal Reserve chairman, said the swift action Congress took in passing trillion-dollar bailouts last spring and a relief measure Additional $ 900 billion last month had managed to “avoid a lot of suffering”.
But she said that even with extraordinary help from the government, the pandemic still caused “widespread devastation.”
“Eighteen million unemployment insurance claims are paid every week. The shelves of food banks are emptying. The damage has been extensive and, as the President-elect said last Thursday, so must our response, ”Yellen said.
“Over the next few months we will need more help to distribute the vaccine, to reopen schools, to help states keep firefighters and teachers on the job,” Yellen said. She said more support would also be needed to maintain unemployment checks and to help families who are hungry or at risk of becoming homeless.
Biden last week unveiled a $ 1.9 trillion relief plan that would provide more help to American families, businesses and local communities and provide more support for vaccine production and distribution.
While Democrats endorsed the effort, many Republican lawmakers expressed concerns about the price to be paid given soaring federal budget deficits.
Yellen said she and Biden were aware of the country’s rising debt burden.
“But right now, with interest rates at historically low levels, the smartest thing we can do is act big,” she said. “In the long run, I think the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we are concerned about helping people who have struggled for a very long time.”
The Senate Finance Committee hearing with Yellen on Tuesday is one of many the Senate will hold as the new Biden administration attempts to quickly put its senior Cabinet officials in place.