Senate Finance Committee Approves Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary; BisNow Webinar Features Roundtableโ€™s DeBoer on Industry Policy Agenda and Biden Administration

Janet Yellen during Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing

The Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 22 voted unanimously to advance President Biden’s nomination of Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary to the full Senate for a vote. Yellen, who formerly served as chair of the Federal Reserve, would become the first woman to hold the position. (The Hill, Jan. 22) 

  • Yellen testified before the committee earlier this week that “the world has changed,” encouraged policymakers to “act big,” and addressed fiscal relief, potential tax increases and the growing budget deficit. (Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal, Jan. 19)
  • “Neither the President-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden,” she said. “But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, 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.” (Yellen testimony, Jan. 19)
  • In follow-up written Q&A with the committee, Yellen addressed a wide variety of policy issues including tax policy and climate change. Among her answers in the document:

    “Both the President and I believe we can turn the threat of climate change into an opportunity to boost our economy and reinvigorate old and new industries to create high paying middle class jobs across America. President Biden has a comprehensive plan to invest in the United States, create a clean energy economy, and address the crisis of climate change. I am focused on the President’s agenda, including investments in the clean energy economy, to address climate change and create good paying jobs and energy efficiency technologies, as well as clean electricity standards that will achieve carbon-pollution-free electricity by 2035.”

  • Yellen also said she planned to start a new Treasury “hub” that would examine financial system risks arising from climate change and on related tax policy incentives, POLITICO’s Zachary Warmbrodt reports.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is poised to chair the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement after the hearing, “As we continue to deal with the worst economic crisis in a century, it’s critically important that she be leading the Treasury Department as soon as possible.” 

Roundtable’s DeBoer & Policy Priorities 

Jeffrey DeBoer, upper left, during Bisnow Webinar

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer commented in the media this week on the Biden Administration and policy priorities ahead.  

  • In Commercial Property Executive’s Jan. 22 article, Industry Responds as Biden Kicks Off Tenure (, DeBoer states, “There are many serious issues facing the nation, but job number one is winning the ongoing battle against the health and economic consequences of the pandemic.”  He added, “In addition, we expect robust debate and activity around housing availability, infrastructure and immigration reform and expanding opportunities for all Americans.”
    • The Roundtable and 12 national real estate organizations on Dec. 16, 2020 congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their historic election and submitted detailed policy recommendations to the incoming administration on COVID-19 relief, sustainability, housing, immigration, tax policy infrastructure, and other policy issue areas. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 18, 2020)
      • The industry letter acknowledges the many economic and social challenges confronting the country and the Biden Administration, including the national response to COVID-19. The letter and supporting policy memo were also sent to every congressional office on Capitol Hill.
      • DeBoer also participated in Jan. 19 BisNow webinar with Roundtable Member Steven Witkoff, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Witkoff, and W. Edward (Ed) Walter – Global Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Land Institute and current co-chair of The Roundtable’s Research Committee – that focused on future economic stimulus proposals from the Biden Administration and industry priorities.
      • DeBoer said, “What Biden has suggested already is very positive. We need to go bold and big. So when we look at this next wave of legislation, we’re going to be looking for how does it distribute the vaccine because until that occurs it is going to be difficult for cities and states and businesses to regain their footing. We have also worked hard on the concept of rent assistance and we have urged that impacted businesses also be able to get some rental assistance.”
      • He added, “We are also very hopeful that in the next bill we can get some additional clarity on liability concerns for businesses. And going forward, we’re concerned that for leasing and refinancing, there may be a need to have a program along the lines of what was established after 9-11 for terrorism insurance. There may be a need for a pandemic risk insurance federal program that would allow people to help mitigate the risk of a future pandemic and that insurance would be available to any kind of business.” 

      The Roundtable’s policy agenda and the Biden Administration’s proposals will be discussed during both The Roundtable’s business meeting and policy advisory committee meetings during the organization’s State of the Industry Meeting on Jan. 26-27 (all virtual).

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      Treasury Requests Cessation of Several Fed Emergency Lending Programs and Return of Unused Funds; Senate Republicans Want Funds Repurposed for Pandemic Relief

      Federal Reserve Building DC

      Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell yesterday requesting that five emergency lending facilities, including the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP), should not be extended past their scheduled expiration on December 31, 2020. Mnuchin also requested the Fed to return unused Treasury loan funds from the programs for Congress to re-appropriate. (Treasury letter and The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19)

      • The MSLP has the capacity to issue up to $600 billion in loans, yet has only completed approximately 400 loans totaling $3.7 billion. (Washington Post, Oct, 30)
      • The programs were created as part of the CARES Act coronavirus aid package passed in March, which included funding for all the Fed’s emergency lending facilities. (The Hill, Nov. 19)
      • Mnuchin’s Nov. 19 letter stated, “I am requesting that the Federal Reserve return the unused funds to the Treasury. This will allow Congress to re-appropriate $455 billion, consisting of $429 billion in excess Treasury funds for the Federal Reserve facilities and $26 billion in unused Treasury direct loan funds.”
      • The decision to end the lending facilities operations cannot be done unilaterally by Treasury; it would require cooperation by the Fed.
      • Chairman Powell issued a statement after markets closed yesterday that signaled disagreement. “The Federal Reserve would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy.” (Wall Street Journal, and CNBC interview with Mnuchin, Nov. 20)
      • Powell also said on Nov. 17 that “I don’t think it is time yet, or very soon” to close down the programs and that the Fed was “using all of our tools to support the recovery for as long as it takes until the job is well and truly done.” (Reuters, Nov. 17)
      • If the Trump administration decides not to extend the Fed programs, the new administration’s Treasury Department could reestablish them after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 10)

      Pandemic Relief Package

      Capitol Building in Washington, DC side view

      The request for the Fed to return unused funds from the lending programs comes as Congress remains at an impasse over costs for a pandemic relief package – the Trump administration offered a ceiling of $1.8 trillion, House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion bill, and Senate Republicans favored a $500 billion measure. (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 6)

      • Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today discussed a strategy for reviving talks between Republicans and Democrats over the stalled pandemic stimulus package. McConnell commented after the meeting about utilizing the unused Fed funds for a relief package, stating, “Congress should repurpose this money toward the kinds of urgent, important, and targeted relief measures that Republicans have been trying to pass for months, but which Democrats have repeatedly blocked with all-or-nothing demands.” (AP, Nov. 20)
      • President-elect Joe Biden on Monday urged Congress to advance the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act (H.R. 925) passed by the House. “Right now, Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago. Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before,” Biden said. (BGov, Nov. 16)
      • A report issued Wednesday by The Century Foundation shows that approximately 12 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance by the end of the year due to deadlines set by Congress early in the pandemic. (Washington Post and GlobeSt, “12M Workers Set to Lose Unemployment Benefits,” Nov. 19)

      Lawmakers also face the added pressure of passing a government funding bill to avoid a Dec. 11 partial shutdown. Congress may choose to merge some COVID-19 aid measures into a sweeping multi-trillion-dollar omnibus funding bill during the lame-duck session to address both issues – or attempt to pass separate bills.

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