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Rep. Perlmutter on stimulus talks: ‘Covid is not waiting for anybody’

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Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest with stimulus as President Biden meets with GOP lawmakers.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: There is little sign of progress over President Biden's stimulus proposal, even after Republican senators met with the president at the White House last night to discuss potential areas for compromise. Let's bring in Representative Ed Perlmutter. He's a Congressman from Colorado.

Congressman, it's good to talk to you today. It feels like there's been a bit of a shift in the messaging coming from the White House. The president, of course, has said that he wants to push forward on this stimulus deal in a bipartisan manner. But also, in recent days sort of hinted that even if this goes through the budget reconciliation process, it doesn't mean, that's not bipartisan. Where do you think negotiations stand right now?

ED PERLMUTTER: Well, there are negotiations. I think I don't know exactly where they stand, but the fact that there are conversations, I think, is really important. And we're still proceeding along the reconciliation line so that, you know, only 51 votes are needed in the Senate. But on the other hand, the fact that 10 senators and the president met to discuss the outlines of a deal, I think, is still positive news.

But you know, the COVID is not waiting for anybody. And I think that's where Biden is coming from. You know, he wants to negotiate, but things have to happen, because people are still getting sick and the economy still needs a boost. And so he wants to move this thing promptly.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. It's kind of interesting to see what's going to happen on that reconciliation front, because there's a big difference here, at least, when you look into the stimulus. It seems to be what most Americans care about is what the size of the check is going to be for them, and it's a wide gap between Republicans wanting to phase that out at incomes for single earners above $50,000 and what Democrats had pushed for in their last one. Also, the amount of the checks. So how important do you think that is to maybe see pushed through on reconciliation, if that's what it's going to take for Americans out there who are hurting?

ED PERLMUTTER: Well, I think it's important that the payments be sufficient to help people get started. This pandemic-- this virus-- has really affected so many families and so many businesses . We need to make sure they're sufficient. But there can be some give and take, I think, with the Republican senators. And I think that's precisely what's happening between the president and those senators.

So that's one piece. The vaccine development and production and distribution-- that's a very big piece. Continued assistance to small businesses and providing for unemployment insurance-- that's really important. Rental assistance is important, and state and local government. There are a lot of things in the reconciliation approach that need to be done, so there are a number of major topics to be negotiated. And if they can't be negotiated, move forward on the reconciliation front.

AKIKO FUJITA: The give and take that you point to-- no question, that's sort of what's going on here. The reality is, there's also the urgency on the ground of those who actually need the stimulus checks, the schools that need the additional funding to be able to reopen safely. How patient do you think Democrats should be in this process? Republicans would argue that, look, if it moves forward on the budget reconciliation process, President Biden's already going back on his word in trying to move through legislation in a bipartisan manner.

ED PERLMUTTER: Well, I think you can be patient up to a point. The urgency of the situation cannot be exaggerated. I mean, we have hundreds of thousands of deaths from this virus. Countless businesses have been closed. A lot of people have been laid off. We've got to get moving.

And that's been something that Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated, whatever have known for some time. So this isn't like this is a surprise to anybody. So obviously, the urgency demands action. And I think the president wants to negotiate, but he cannot wait. The virus is not waiting.

AKIKO FUJITA: Let's talk about another issue that we have been tracking very closely over the last week, and that's what's been playing out in the markets with the Reddit traders, the limited trades, the trades that were limited through the Robinhood app last week. We got news yesterday that co-founder and CEO Vlad Tenev will be testifying before the House Financial Services Subcommittee, which you serve on. What questions do you have going into the hearing? What are key issues you think that need to be addressed on this front?

ED PERLMUTTER: I think we want to look at, sort of, three different fronts-- or I do, anyway. One I want to look at-- how did the short selling develop, and was the short sale side oversold? How did that come to be? And so I want to look at the short selling piece of this thing.

I want to look at the trading component, the Robinhood, and did, in fact, they limit it in a way that really harmed the retail investors? And to a degree, it seems like it did. And I want to understand better their reasoning for doing that.

And then I want to understand the retail investor in this. I want to make sure that-- it's usually the last person into a deal like this who ends up getting left holding the bag. And you know, I always refer to Mr. and Mrs. McGillicuddy that live down the street. And I want to make sure that our laws, our security laws, are in place to give them some protection.

Now, you know, this was so volatile. There was an element of gambling going on here. And people were taking risks. But on the other hand, we have securities laws in place to try to protect that small retail investor. And I want to see if they've been working or not.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. I mean, there are some McGillicuddys who probably were trading on Robinhood. There's also some McGillicuddys who are probably trading on some other brokers out there. I'd be curious to get your take on why Robinhood's getting so much attention in this, too, because there are other elements that seem to be spilling over to other brokerages when you talk about payment for order flow, which we talked to Congressman McHenry yesterday about.

And he didn't seem too concerned with that practice. But it is something that's getting a lot of attention that kind of points to potential conflicts of interest in brokerage interest for their customers and some of these market makers out there. So is that a piece that you'd want to learn more about here?

ED PERLMUTTER: Absolutely. So we've been talking about the order flow of these in this process, because first in, first out, you get to do things earlier, you can make money. And we've been talking about this process since the Obama administration. And I think it's something that has to be considered. I mean, Robinhood's name kind of leads to the special attention that they're getting. Whether Ameritrade limited margins, whether some of the other platforms limited margins, you know, Robinhood is coming under real scrutiny here because so many people used that platform to do their retail trades.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. And they blocked buys, too, and so, you know, a step beyond just margin, and for quite some time, too. Longer than some of the other brokerages out there. I want to shift, though, to another topic that you watched very closely, something you and I have discussed multiple times here in your SAFE Banking Act baby that has been passed by the House. It got passed, got included in the HEROES Act. Of course, the HEROES Act didn't go anywhere in the Senate.

But back again. As we talk about stimulus yet again, potentially also going to get pushed through here. So what are your estimations? For those who don't know, SAFE Banking to reform the cannabis laws out there, to let the cannabis sector access banking.

And we saw yesterday Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer teaming up with Senator Wyden and Senator Booker to talk about the need to get some reforms pushed through here, saying that it's going to be coming-- at least a draft of some initial proposals early on in the year. So how does the SAFE Banking Act fit into that as maybe a first step to get to some of the progressive agenda items? What do you see coming?

ED PERLMUTTER: I see-- well, I think it can be kind of a standalone or part of a bigger package-- you know, a broader reform package. So we really need to get the federal laws lined up with the state laws. And as you and I have talked about, the federal laws under the Controlled Substances Act say anything with THC, more or less, is illegal for all purposes.

So whether it's medicinal, or recreational, or [? cannabid ?] oil, whatever it is, we've got to align the laws, because banking laws are generally under the federal umbrella. And the banking laws-- it's difficult for some cannabis companies and cannabis-related businesses to have legitimate banking relationships. So we want to get that part straightened out.

And then there has to be some criminal justice reform attached to that as well, because so many people over the years have been subject to different kinds of violations and crimes that have really caused difficult records for these folks. We need to clean up a lot of this. And so I understand where the Majority Leader Schumer is coming from. We passed the MORE Act in the house along-- we also passed the SAFE Banking Act, which is narrower and really focuses on the banking relationships. But my guess is we're going to get some broader legislation.

ZACK GUZMAN: Two quick questions, then just a follow-up before we let you go. Do you see the SAFE Banking Act going through with the effort here that we're expecting on this next stimulus bill as you see it? And then two, I guess, in terms of where it could go after that, how quickly do you think that they might actually get to something that looks like the MORE Act?

ED PERLMUTTER: So your first question-- do I plan to ask that the SAFE Banking Act be part of the overall COVID reconciliation bill? Yes, I plan on asking that. Whether it gets in there or not, we'll see how that works. Plan on passing it as a standalone bill.

And the Senate may take up a broader version. And we'll deal with that if they could ever move something out of the Senate, which is where the roadblock has been, because we passed the broader bill-- the MORE Act-- and we passed the SAFE Banking Act, and the Senate sat on it. So the Senate's got to get busy and work on this subject.

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, very different this time around with Democratic control. We'll see what happens there. Congressman Ed Perlmutter, appreciate you joining us here today to discuss all that. Be well.

ED PERLMUTTER: Thanks, Zack. I'll talk to you later.