Senate GOP ramped up criticism of Biden stimulus plan during Yellen hearing – Business Insider – Business Insider

FINANCE
  • Republicans launched attacks against the Biden stimulus plan during the Yellen confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley called it a « laundry list of liberal structural economic reforms. »
  • The hearing likely presages the staunch opposition many parts of Biden’s economic agenda will encounter on Capitol Hill.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Senate Republicans ratcheted up their criticism of President-elect Joe Biden’s economic rescue package on Tuesday, indicating it will likely encounter strong resistance among GOP lawmakers wary of backing more federal spending.

During the confirmation hearing for Janet Yellen — Biden’s pick for treasury secretary — Republicans tried putting her on the defensive on Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid plan.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the outgoing chair of the Senate Finance Committee, assailed the plan as a « laundry list of liberal structural economic reforms » in his introductory remarks.

Then Republicans started launching broadsides against it.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranked Senate Republican, said he was concerned about « the massive amount of debt we are racking up » and urged lawmakers against downplaying it in the months ahead. It swelled throughout President Donald Trump’s term as Republicans enacted a large tax cut for corporations in 2017.

Yellen also challenged arguments from Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina that a $15 minimum wage — a key provision in the plan — would cause massive job losses. She pointed to a large body of research that indicates in neighboring states where one raises the hourly wage and the other doesn’t, job losses are « very minimal » in the state that did lift pay for workers. 

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, warned of « another spending blowout » as a result of Biden’s economic stewardship.  He later told Yellen: « I look forward to working with you but I have to admit that the contours of the stimulus bill as proposed by the Biden administration are going to make that difficult. »

The hearing likely presages the staunch opposition many parts of Biden’s economic agenda will encounter on Capitol Hill. As treasury secretary, Yellen will serve a crucial role shepherding the administration’s plans through a divided Congress. Democrats will have very slim majorities in both the House and Senate. 

Yellen defended the massive amount of spending that Biden is seeking. She argued the economic recovery was imperiled unless Congress swiftly acted to approve more federal aid to mitigate the devastation caused by the pandemic, particularly among women and minority communities.

She also sought to assuage Republican alarm over the prospect of tax hikes during an economic downturn, given it forms a core part of the Biden economic agenda. « The focus right now is on providing relief and on helping families keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and not on raising taxes, » she said.

Biden introduced a $1.9 trillion economic aid package last week which contained a broad array of relief provisions. They included federal unemployment benefits, direct payments, expanded tax credits for low-income Americans, assistance for state and local governments and vaccine distribution funds.

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