Over the Weekend
Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen advocated for President Biden’s American Rescue Plan partially in response to an op-ed written last week by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
In the piece, Summers warned that the $1.9 trillion proposal could cause economic harm, such as unwarranted inflation. While she acknowledged that inflation is “a risk that we have to consider,” Yellen said the most significant threat is inaction from Congress. Should inflation rise to concerning levels, Yellen, who previously served as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, insisted that the U.S. government has the tools to address such a risk.
She spoke specifics of the package, including the income threshold for Economic Impact Payments, saying that while President Biden is open to negotiation, he would not think those earning above $300,000 a year should receive the payments. Yellen estimated that, if the American Rescue Package is enacted, full employment would be realized sometime next year.
This Week On the Floor
The House will be focused this week on crafting the American Rescue Plan package.
The Senate will vote today on Denis McDonough, who was approved unanimously by the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Tomorrow, the Senate will begin the second trial of former President Donald Trump, who was impeached on Jan. 13 for incitement of insurrection. With 45 Senate Republicans already having voted that trying a former president, now a private citizen, is unconstitutional, it is almost certain former President Trump will be acquitted. The speed with which the chamber dispenses the trial, however, will have an impact on the pace of COVID-19 legislation.
Tax and Financial Services Committees
The overwhelming focus of the tax and financial services committees—and, in fact, most of Congress—this week will be preparing their sections of the $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation package. Following last week’s “vote-a-rama,” the committees are now able to formally begin the process of drafting and marking up legislation to meet the requirements under the budget resolution.
The budget resolution contained the following instructions for the House and Senate tax and financial services committees:
- House Ways and Means: $940.718 billion
- Senate Finance: $1,296.487 billion
- House Financial Services: $75 billion
- Senate Banking: $89.250 billion
In addition to these committees, 11 House committees and 10 Senate committees also have jurisdiction over some portion of the budget reconciliation package.
The markup process could vary by committee. The House Education and Labor Committee will mark up a bill on Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee will markup on Wednesday, and the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to introduce its legislation today, and has set aside Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to markup the legislation.
Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) has said the panel will only work during ordinary hours, concluding each day at 6:00 p.m., to avoid any late-night business. Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) has said Republicans will only offer substantive amendments and will not intentionally delay the process beyond Thursday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the House is aiming to pass the measure during the week of Feb. 22, so the Senate can vote on the measure before extended unemployment benefits expire on March 14.
Tax and Finance Rewind
In case you missed it…
- The Senate passed by unanimous consent an organizing resolution reached by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The resolution, which was broadly based on the 2001 power-sharing agreement, allows Democrats to formally take control of Senate committees, providing them more control over advancing the party’s policy objectives. In announcing the resolution, Schumer explained he has already instructed committee chairs to move on legislation to address the climate crisis. He said climate issues affect all areas of public policy, and as a result, said Democrats would take a whole-of-Senate approach to tackling climate change. Schumer specifically highlighted the expected infrastructure package as a vehicle through which Democrats will aim to pass green infrastructure measures.
- President Biden expressed doubt that the $15 an hour minimum wage hike proposed under his American Rescue Plan would ultimately be included in the budget reconciliation bill. “My guess is it will not be in it,” he said in an interview.
- Last week, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who served under the Obama administration, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that the $1.9 trillion package proposed by the Biden administration would be harmful to the recovery. Summers said the package would provide too much stimulus and overheat the economy, threatening dangerous levels of inflation.
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