Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) leveled a nasty accusation against the Trump administration on Tuesday during a virtual Senate Banking Committee hearing. The witnesses included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.
"The essential workers are often the lowest paid workers...they put their lives on the line for very low wages," Brown said. He asked Mnuchin and Powell if that was "fair." The witnesses could only share their appreciation for the frontline workers stepping up every single day.
Unsatisfied with the answers, Brown said the best thing the administration could do was "support pandemic pay for these workers."
Brown noted that public health experts have told him it's unsafe to reopen states and businesses at this time, which led to his next question.
"How many workers will die if we send people back to work without the protections they need?" Brown asked.
"We don't intend to send anybody back to work without the protections," Mnuchin returned, defending the administration's policies.
"How many workers should give their lives to increase our GDP by half a percent?" Brown said, doubling down.
"No worker should give their life to do that Mr. Senator and I think your characterization is unfair," Mnuchin responded. "We've provided enormous amount of equipment, we've worked with the governors..."
Brown didn't let him finish his thought.
"I'm not going to let you make a political speech about what a great job - we hear that from the president at his news conferences," Brown interrupted.
The senator questioned Mnuchin's priorities on Twitter, too.
The first word out of Sec. Mnuchin’s mouth at today's Banking Hearing?— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) May 19, 2020
Not workers, not families – liquidity.
Families don’t want to hear about liquidity and financial double-speak, they want to hear how this administration will keep them safe when they go to work.
To suggest that President Trump is willingly sending Americans back into the workforce without regard for their health is callous and unfair. He and his task force have been working around the clock to flatten the curve and adopt a reopening plan that places an emphasis both on the national economy and individual health.
For weeks, Mnuchin has been negotiating deals with both Republicans and Democrats to help struggling small businesses across the country. The result was the CARES Act and the Payment Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans for businesses so they can retain their employees. He also helped organize those $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans.
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