May 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Yellen wants business to help foot infrastructure bill

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is seen addressing reporters at the White House.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is heading into the belly of the beast Tuesday and asking the business community to support President Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan during a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Why it matters: By trying to persuade a skeptical and targeted audience, Yellen is signaling the president’s commitment to raising corporate taxes to pay for his plan. Republican senators, critical to a potential bipartisan deal, oppose any corporate tax increase.

  • “We are confident that the investments and tax proposals in the (American) Jobs Plan, taken as a package, will enhance the net profitability of our corporations and improve their global competitiveness,” Yellen plans to say, according to excerpts from her speech obtained by Axios.
  • “We hope that business leaders will see it this way and support the Jobs Plan.”

The big picture: The administration is working to build support for the plan both in and out of Washington as it awaits the second counterproposal from Senate Republicans.

  • Their initial offer of $568 billion could climb as high as $800 billion.
  • Cabinet members will hit the road again this week, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visiting Georgia and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh stopping in New Hampshire on Friday. Other members will make other trips and give TV interviews.
  • Back in Washington, officials will continue to make use of a TV studio in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to reach local audiences.
  • “We are going to spend this week continuing to make the case around the country for the president’s vision and pushing to get it done,” said Michael Gwin, White House rapid response director.

The other side: Congressional Republicans have declared President Trump’s 2017 corporate and individual tax cuts are off-limits.

  • The Business Roundtable prefers a mix of deficit spending, repurposed money from Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and user fees to fund infrastructure projects.

Between the lines: Yellen’s speech to the Chamber will take an economic history tour.

  • The secretary will argue previous periods of economic uncertainty were met with government investments in infrastructure, education and research and development.
  • She'll note legislation that was controversial at the time spawned institutions now part of everyday American life, including the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Social Security Administration.
  • “It is the time to recommit our government to playing a more active and smarter role in the economy,” she'll say. “We’re proposing smart investments — to make our economy more competitive and sustainable, to provide opportunities for all families and workers and to make our tax system fairer.”

Driving the news: Yellen will be introduced by Suzanne P. Clark, the chamber's president and CEO. The two will kick off the Global Forum on Economic Recovery, a two-day virtual event sponsored by Google, Amazon and UPS.

  • The chamber has scheduled conversations with the presidents of Kenya and Colombia and prime minister of Singapore, as well as business executives, including IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, Microsoft President Brad Smith and the software company's former CEO Bill Gates.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a former venture capitalist who has told the president directly not to raise corporate taxes, also will attend.
Go deeper