Yellen to call for “big” action at Senate confirmation hearing

Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, will call for “big” action on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, according to prepared remarks obtained by CBS News. The Senate will begin confirmation hearings on Tuesday for Yellen and more key members of Mr. Biden’s Cabinet. 

“Economists don’t always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now – and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen will say.

Her call to action comes just days after Mr. Biden laid out an FDR-style vision for getting the coronavirus under control and tackling the economic crisis that has put millions of people out of work since early last year.

“Over the next few months, we are going to need more aid to distribute the vaccine; to reopen schools; to help states keep firefighters and teachers on the job,” Yellen will say in her remarks. “We’ll need more funding to make sure unemployment insurance checks still go out; and to help families who are at risk of going hungry or losing the roof over their heads.”

Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes provisions such as extending enhanced unemployment benefits through September and increasing those benefits from the current $300 a week to $400 a week, sending direct relief to families in the form of $1,400 checks, the national vaccine distribution plan and a series of other relief measures. Yellen will acknowledge the $1.9 trillion price tag on Tuesday.

“Neither the President-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden,” Yellen will say. “But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time.” 

Yellen, who previously served as Federal Reserve Chair from 2014 to 2018, will state she believes the Treasury Secretary has a dual mission: Helping Americans get through the pandemic and back to work and also rebuilding the economy so American workers can compete globally. 

Yellen is one of five Biden nominees to go before Senate committees on Tuesday. Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken, Defense Secretary-designate retired General Lloyd Austin, Department of Homeland Security Secretary-designate Alejandro Mayorkas and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines will also appear before Senate committees. 

If confirmed, Yellen will be the first woman to serve as Treasury Secretary in the department’s more than 230-year history. She previously was also the first woman to serve as Federal Reserve chair.

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