WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve Janet Yellen as the first woman Treasury secretary on Friday, sending her nomination to the full Senate for a floor vote, and indicating that she will easily win approval.
Yellen, who served as Federal Reserve chair from 2014 to 2018, was approved on a 26-0 vote in the committee evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
At her hearing on Tuesday, Yellen told senators that the Biden-Harris administration would focus on winning quick passage of its $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans. It also would temporarily prohibit evictions, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and help meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration.
“More must be done,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later.”
She urged lawmakers to “act big,” saying that the benefits outweigh the costs of a higher debt burden.
“Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big,” Yellen said the day before Biden was sworn into office.
“I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time,” she said.
Democrats have 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 like restaurants have gone out of business and that it would lead to more job losses.
Yellen said, however, that 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.
The latest report released by the Labor Department Thursday shows that the number of people filing for jobless benefits was 900,000. That’s a slight decrease from the previous week but still a historically high level.
President Biden plans to sign executive orders Friday to provide more financial relief to Americans. He’s slated to deliver remarks on his administration’s response to the economic crisis at 2:45 p.m. EST.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.