Yellen Runs Into GOP Resistance to ‘Act Big’ Call for Stimulus

Janet Yellen encountered early Republican resistance to President-elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan in her confirmation hearing to become Treasury secretary Tuesday, as she sought backing for what she described as vital support for the economy.

“Right now, short term, I feel that we can afford what it takes to get the economy back on its feet, to get us through the pandemic,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee, highlighting that interest rates are historically low and that debt-servicing payments as a share of the economy are lower today than before the 2008 financial crisis. “It would be a false economy to stint.”

Yellen -- who could be confirmed as soon as Thursday according to a timeline presented by the committee’s incoming chairman -- said that help for the unemployed and small businesses would provide the “biggest bang for the buck.” She urged lawmakers to “act big” in efforts to rescue an economy battered by the coronavirus.

Republicans are already balking, at both the size and at components tied to longstanding Democratic goals such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and expanding family and medical leave.

“Now is not the time to enact a laundry list of liberal structural economic reforms,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said in his opening remarks. He noted that Congress just approved a $900 billion pandemic relief bill in December. He pointed to criticism that Biden’s proposal isn’t well targeted, and said, “It is important to focus efforts on pandemic relief.”