WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice as Treasury secretary, said Tuesday that the incoming administration would focus on winning rapid passage of its $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, rejecting Republican arguments that the measure is too big given the size of U.S. budget deficits.
“More must be done,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee during her confirmation hearing.
“Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later.”
Democrats voiced support for the Biden proposal while Republicans questioned spending nearly $2 trillion more on top of nearly $3 trillion that Congress passed in various packages last year.
Republicans questioned elements of the Biden proposal such as providing an additional $1,400 stimulus check to individuals earning less than $75,000.
They also objected to the inclusion of such long-term Democratic goals as boosting the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said that the push for a higher minimum wage comes at a time when thousands of small businesses such as restaurants have gone out of business, and that it would lead to more job losses.
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Yellen said, however, the increase in the minimum wage would help millions of frontline American workers who are risking their lives to keep their communities functioning and often working two jobs to put food on the table.
“They are struggling to get by and raising the minimum wage would help these workers,” she said.
Despite policy differences, Yellen — who would be the first woman to be Treasury secretary after being the first woman to be chair of the Federal Reserve — is expected to win quick Senate confirmation.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who will become chairman when Democrats take over the Senate, said it was his hope that Yellen could be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as Thursday.
Yellen has agreed to recuse herself from Treasury matters involving certain Wall Street businesses that have compensated her for delivering talks.
Yellen’s Treasury nomination was supported in a letter from eight previous Treasury secretaries serving both Republican and Democratic administrations.