Congress Can 'Act Big' on Infrastructure, Put U.S. on 'Better Path,' Janet Yellen Says

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pushed for Congress on Tuesday to support the Biden administration's "Build Back Better" initiative, hopeful it will bring improvements on infrastructure and environmental needs, the Associated Press reported.

"Over the course of American history, we have seen inflection points where policymakers had the courage to think big and act big to address long-standing flaws in the prevailing economic landscape," Yellen said in remarks before the National Association for Business Economists. "We face a similarly significant moment today where Congress can think big and act big to decisively send us down a better path."

The $3.5 trillion initiative, along with a $1 trillion bipartisan bill, would bring improvements to roads, passenger and freight rail systems, and bridges that Yellen said have been "in disrepair and unsafe for decades." The initiative's goals are also to build new schools, help combat climate change by providing clean drinking water, and also create a new electric grid and power structure.

"The investments in the president's agenda would be a sweeping overhaul of our national infrastructure," Yellen said.

According to Yellen, the projects would be funded through higher taxes on large, profitable corporations, improved enforcement of the existing tax system, and savings from reforms to government health care programs, AP reported.

As the Republican party believes the $3.5 trillion tax increase for Americans is too high a price tag, Democratic leaders are working in Congress to gain the votes for the two initiatives, as well as two others that must pass before Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Treasury Secretary supports "Build Back Better"
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appears before a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the CARES Act on Capitol Hill on September 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool) Matt McClain/Associated Press

In a question and answer session, Yellen defended the administration's efforts to establish a global corporate minimum tax, something that Republicans on Capitol Hill have opposed.

"If you look at corporate tax rates globally, you see a steady downward progression over decades," Yellen said. "That reflects a competitive race to the bottom."

Yellen said the administration is close to getting support from 140 countries to establish a minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent. She said countries that seek to be tax havens such as Ireland, Estonia and Hungary have refused to join in this agreement but "we are working hard to find ways to bring them on board."

She said she hoped to get a political endorsement from world leaders at a meeting of the Group of 20 major industrial countries in late October. She said provisions for changes that need to be made in U.S. law have been included in the $3.5 trillion spending plan the administration is trying to push through Congress relying only on Democratic votes.