The right way to obtain “pressing” consensus on Covid’s support bundle: Josh Bolten

Joshua Bolten

David Hume Kennerly | Getty Images

As the Biden administration and Republican lawmakers battle over the size of a pandemic relief package, the American company is on the side of the new President and Democrats in Congress when it comes to getting big – but willing to go a little too give to achieve greater bipartisan consensus.

Josh Bolten, President and CEO of the Business Roundtable, a large and influential group of over 100 prominent CEOs, said in an interview with Kayla Tausche at a CNBC Capital Exchange event Wednesday that conservative efforts to “downsize” the president Biden’s proposed $ 1.9 billion plan is not confirmed by the business community.

“Our members say they support what the Biden government says about the urgency of the rescue needed. First, bring the pandemic under control and second, support the most vulnerable in difficult economic times,” Bolten said. “We are here to get involved with these elements.”

However, the BRT is concerned about the administration’s efforts to include other policy measures in Covid’s relief package, which could reduce the likelihood of legislation being passed. Political ideas that are not geared towards the immediate crisis “make cross-party support difficult,” said Bolten. “We think they should be flexible about putting them aside and picking them up later.”

A minimum wage of $ 15 can make relief for Covid difficult

This includes the minimum wage expense of $ 15. While Bolten stressed that BRT members have long advocated a higher federal minimum wage and that the current $ 7.25 is “clearly too low”, he is skeptical that this is the moment for Congress to do so on a partisan basis bring. He noted that most of his organization’s CEOs already pay much higher minimum wages, but a national mandate would hit smaller companies harder.

Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Walmart, chairs the BRT while Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Mary Barra of GM and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, are on the board of directors of the Business Roundtable.

“The surge is most directly affecting small businesses and they have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Bolten. “Many are flat on their backs, many hundreds of thousands have completely stopped their business and many are just hanging on. We want to get them going again,” he said, noting that many are customers and suppliers of larger companies.

“Enforcing a minimum wage hike which can be very detrimental to small businesses in the short term if it is not designed to take into account regional differences and reasonable outsourcing … the negotiations and this package will take a long time is not the place to do it “said Bolten.

Main Street is concerned about the timing, although it has been estimated that raising the minimum wage could help up to 20% of the U.S. workforce. A 2019 analysis by the Impartial Budget Office of Congress predicted that the option of $ 15 in an average week in 2025 would increase the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $ 15 an hour. Another 10 million workers who otherwise earn just over $ 15 an hour could also see their wages rise. But 1.3 million other workers would become unemployed, according to the CBO’s median estimate.

It was clear to the BRT CEO that despite the country’s withdrawal from the pandemic, the situation was still urgent. However, the urgency should be focused on “getting the pandemic under control and assisting and raising the vulnerable in the months ahead.” for vaccines and testing, as well as for public health workers and for taking care of people devastated by the pandemic as we embark on what appears to be a robust recovery. “

A forecast by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this week predicts the economy will be “fast” and the labor market will be back to full strength sooner than expected due to the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines and legislation enacted in 2020 – the prospects do not depend on another bidding round. Gross domestic product, or GDP, is expected to return to pre-pandemic sizes in mid-2021 and the workforce is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, the impartial CBO said on Monday.

Frankly, there has been a high level of engagement and outreach in ways that are much bigger and deeper than the experience itself at the start of the Trump administration.

John Bolten

Business roundtable

Bolten said the political chances for a non-partisan package with 60 Senate votes are “tough … but not impossible,” but reconciliation doesn’t have to be partisan if that’s the ultimate way forward. Bolten served in the George W. Bush administration in 2001 when, with overwhelming support from the GOP and 12 Democratic Senators, he implemented a tax cut through reconciliation.

Repeating the comments of Biden’s longtime economic advisor Jared Bernstein, Bolten said at the same CNBC virtual event on Wednesday that the issue shouldn’t boil down to the top-line dollar number for the aid package and bargain for a certain dollar amount in between Severity of the ongoing Covid crisis. Bernstein said, “The danger is getting too small, not too great. Cutting off is the enemy of what we have to do here.” The Biden advisor also emphasized that reconciliation does not mean GOP support.

A recent public survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans support the $ 1.9 trillion proposal.

The BRT CEO stated that the Biden administration was in close contact and, in some ways, had communicated even more than the Trump administration did early on. “They were great. Frankly, there was a high level of engagement and reach in a way that is much richer and deeper than the experience itself at the start of the Trump administration. … We will not agree anything but us feel comfortable that we have open communication channels and that people, high-ranking people in the Biden administration, will want to hear from us and take our views into account. “

Shortly after the presidential election, the Business Roundtable outlined its priorities during a Biden administration and with a new Congress, including coronavirus relief to support small businesses and the removal of tariffs. On trade terms, the BRT wants President Biden to lower the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on foreign goods, although trade deals with China will remain tougher. The BRT opposed Biden’s campaign proposal to increase taxes on those earning more than $ 400,000, as well as an increase in the corporate tax rate.

The immigration reform and infrastructure indicated by Bolten will also be priorities that the Biden government will focus on and that the BRT also has high on their list, but not for the time being.

“The first is that we have to get out of the pandemic,” he said.

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