By Kate Davidson 

WASHINGTON -- Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's choice for Treasury secretary, plans to tell lawmakers that the U.S. risks a longer, more painful recession unless Congress approves more aid and urge them to "act big" to shore up the recovery.

Ms. Yellen is set to testify Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, which is considering her nomination, according to a copy of her prepared remarks that was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

"Economists don't always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now -- and long-term scarring of the economy later," Ms. Yellen will say. "Over the next few months, we are going to need more aid to distribute the vaccine; to reopen schools; to help states keep firefighters and teachers on the job."

Mr. Biden's nomination of Ms. Yellen positions the 74-year-old labor economist to lead his administration's efforts to advance the recovery from the destruction caused by the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns. She will also play a key role in pushing the administration's economic agenda on Capitol Hill, a job that will start in earnest Tuesday, said Tony Fratto, a senior Treasury and White House aide in the George W. Bush administration.

Mr. Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, unveiled last week, provides for another round of direct stimulus payments, extended and enhanced jobless benefits, funding for schools and first responders and the creation of a nationwide vaccination program. It also includes longstanding Democratic priorities, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and expanding paid leave for workers.

Republicans have decried the size and scope of the measure, arguing it would spend more than the economy needs. Some Republicans and Democrats have also expressed concern about the growing national debt, which at $21.6 trillion exceeds the annual output of the U.S. economy.

Ms. Yellen aims to address those concerns in her testimony: "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."

The hearing comes at a time of growing uncertainty over the progress of the pandemic, which has killed close to 400,000 people in the U.S., as well as the state of the economy. Retail sales fell for the third straight month in December and employers cut jobs, ending seven months of employment gains.

Write to Kate Davidson at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2021 16:05 ET (21:05 GMT)

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