U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will seek quick passage of its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary said Tuesday.
Janet Yellen said at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee that “more must be done” to provide help to struggling Americans affected by the pandemic, despite arguments from Republicans that the relief package is too large.
The U.S. budget deficit ballooned to a record $3.1 trillion last year after Congress passed various relief packages valued at $3 trillion.
“Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen said.
Biden’s proposed relief plan would provide more aid to families and businesses, more support for coronavirus vaccine production and distribution and support for state and local governments to avoid layoffs of essential workers.
Yellen said she and the incoming president are aware of the debt problem but believe containing the pandemic-fueled recession is a higher immediate priority.
Republicans have voiced opposition to elements of Biden’s plan, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals with salaries below $75,000 annually and plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Republican Senator Tim Scott argued during Tuesday’s hearing that the minimum wage was the reason for job layoffs during a coronavirus crisis that has forced thousands of small businesses to close permanently.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the incoming chairman of the finance committee, expressed hope that Yellen would be confirmed by the Senate as soon as Thursday.
If confirmed, Yellen would be the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary. During President Barack Obama’s administration, she became the first woman to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve.