Mar 17 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, during a morning interview on the Yahoo Finance program “On the Move," Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), discussed the likely devastating economic impact of the coronavirus and the need for additional strong policy responses.
Interviewer: What’s the hold up here? In a partisan Washington, can we get a productive bill through that is going to help people right now when they need it?
VC Beyer: Julie, I sure hope so. I know that on the Democratic side in the House, we were on the phone for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon putting together all the pieces. Our staffs, Ways and Means, Appropriations, they have been working around the clock, literally overnight, so I’m hoping that we’ll have Phase 3— first of all we’d like to get Phase 2 passed in the Senate today—but we’ll have Phase 3 ready by the end of the week and then Phase 4 after that. So, yeah, it is URGENT, all capital letters.
You can watch the interview here. Additional excerpts from the interview are below.
On Getting Money into the Hands of Consumers
VC Beyer: The bill we passed Friday night was directed at the people who need it most, you know the health care workers, the waitresses and waiters, the auto mechanics...So I really like the idea of the direct payments. I was glad to see Mitt Romney among others come out for that. Every economist that I’ve talked to so far says we need to [put cash in the hands of] the people that are consuming, that are buying, that are going to be missing paychecks right now—and you don’t do that through a payroll tax cut.
On Federal Reserve Opening a Commercial Paper Facility
Interviewer: Talk to us about your thinking around this latest monetary policy move.
VC Beyer: I think it’s a really good thing and it may be more important than the Sunday afternoon announcement to the zero percent, which was probably more symbolic. But the notion that a lot more commercial paper will be available to small and medium sized businesses is a good thing.
On the House-Passed Stimulus Bill in the Senate
VC Beyer: You know, in the bill that the House passed early Saturday morning, it’s in the Senate right now, [we] did a lot in terms of paycheck[s] —guaranteed [ten]-day sick leave, extension of unemployment benefits, things that are trying to maintain the income flow to the workers. But we also have to be concerned about the small to medium sized businesses and even large businesses. We have enormous pressure if we do lose one million jobs just in the month of March [as Kevin Hassett, President Trump’s former Council of Economic Advisers chair, has predicted].
On President Trump’s Payroll Tax Cut Proposal
Interviewer: How would [payroll tax cuts] be an undermining of what we are trying to achieve?
VC Beyer: Our Joint Economic Committee did a great analysis of this just a couple of days ago. The dilemma with the payroll tax cut is, even at two percent, that’s less than $9 a week for people making $25,000, which is a pretty big part of the country.
On the Potential Longer-Term Economic Impact of Coronavirus
Interviewer: What is going on [in Virginia]? What are you hearing from the small, medium sized businesses? I know you’re in quarantine right now, but just from your own constituents paint a picture for us…
VC Beyer: Well, I guess like New York the streets are empty. I took the dog around the block last night and not a single car passed me in 15 minutes. Many, many, many of the shops are closed either from fear of the coronavirus or because nobody was coming in to begin with. So we need to be able to look ahead in some kind of optimistic way to when business can get back to normal, even if its 60 days out or 90 days out. I’m hoping that the epidemiologists will come up soon with a protocol that says ‘here’s when life can start again.’ But one of the most interesting things is we’re all trying to do a really good job about flattening the contagion curve, but as you flatten it you make it a lot longer – that means a lot longer before the businesses start to recover.
About Congressman Beyer
Congressman Beyer represents Virginia’s 8th District, which encompasses Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County. He serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1998, and Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President Obama.
About the JEC
The JEC is a joint House-Senate committee that holds hearings and issues reports to help inform Congress’ actions on economic issues. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is Chairman of the Committee in the 116th Congress. Senator Lee and Representative Beyer are joined by nine Republican and nine Democratic members.