Congress hears from Mnuchin, Powell as CARES Act nears expiration

D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With the CARES Act set to expire at the end of the month, time is running out for Congress to pass a replacement.

The Senate Banking Committee heard from two top economic voices Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, about what to do next.

Mnuchin has refused to extend federal emergency loan programs designed to help businesses and governments survive the pandemic, saying the law requires him to do so.

“My decision not to extend these facilities was not an economic decision,” he said.

“There is no legitimate justification for it,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, disagreed. “You’re leaving the country worse off than you found it.”

He said because of Mnuchin’s decision, which he derided as “malpractice,” Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will inherit an even bigger economic mess.

“Anyone who has watched the news at all in the last month would know that this is the time for action, not for retreat,” Brown said.

Mnuchin insisted the economy is making a comeback, citing 12 million jobs regained according to an October report.

Even so, he said Congress must pass another relief bill — something Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked over for months — to help the hardest-hit businesses, like restaurants and hotels.

“The high level of joblessness has been especially severe for lower wage workers in the service sector, for women and for African Americans and Hispanics,” Powell, the fed chair, said.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers on Tuesday proposed a small compromise relief package that includes billions in additional payroll and business loans. It’s unclear if leaders in the Democrat-led House and Republican-controlled Senate will go for it.

As the clock ticks, fears continue to rise that negotiators may be unable to bridge the gap.

“I think it’s a huge failure of the Congress not to get this done,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said.

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