Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Congress faces “hard choices” on the multi-trillion-dollar social spending bill but that there is a healthy give and take on it.
“There are active discussions taking place now among members of Congress, among Democrats with the White House, and we’re trying to figure out what is the best way to construct a package that would have huge payoffs for America,” she told ABC News “This Week” on Sunday.
“There are going to be hard choices to negotiate in the coming weeks,” she said. “We’re working and talking with members of Congress, and you know this is a healthy give and take.”
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure spending insitiatives — outlined in two big packages still working their way through Capitol Hill — have ignited debate on fiscal spending as the country tries to emerge on firmer economic standing after the pandemic.
Democrats running for office on promises of affordable childcare, paid medical leave, and improved educational opportunities, not to mention improved roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, have expressed frustration with the long process.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor in a tight race in Virginia, told CNN on Sunday, “You bet I’m frustrated.”
Bitter fighting between moderate Democrats and their progressive colleagues in the caucus has dragged the negotiations out. “We’ve got frustration with Washington,” McAuliffe said. “We’re tired of the chitty-chat up in Washington. Get into a room and get this figured out.”
The Senate averted a crisis on the nation’s debt limit last week in a temporary compromise that pushes the decision to December. Yellen on Sunday repeated her call on Congress to work on a bipartisan agreement to extend the limit, calling a much discussed idea of issuing a $1 trillion coin to pay the company’s bills a “gimmick.”
“It’s really up to Congress,” Yellen told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos when asked about eliminating the debt limit entirely. “I support personally getting rid of the debt ceiling,” Yellen said, “I believe once Congress and the administration have decided on spending plans and tax plans it’s simply their responsibility to pay the bills.”
Yellen called it a housekeeping chore, nothing more. “We should be debating the government’s fiscal policy when we decide on those expenditures and taxes, not when the credit card bill comes due.”
President Biden hopes to pay for some of the social programs he is proposing with taxes on corporations and the wealthy. On Friday, more than 130 nations agreed to a 15% global minimum tax on multinational corporations, a move that would limit tax havens and help governments collect revenue from companies that haven’t paid in the past.
Many large American pharmaceutical and social media companies have moved operations to places like low-tax Ireland in recent years to benefit from lower local tax rates. Ireland joined the international agreement last week.
Yellen said she is confident the minimum tax will be included and passed by Congress. “This is really a historic agreement,” she said.
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