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Sen. Grassley: the whole point of this bill is the recovery of the economy

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Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R) joins Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith and Jessica Smith to discuss the $2T coronavirus stimulus bill facing a vote in the Senate.

Video Transcript

- We're going to talk more about that major stimulus package that is sitting on the Senate floor right now. It's expected to be a $2 trillion deal. We heard the report from Jeff Smith at the top of the hour that there is some opposition here amongst some senators to the fast tracking of this bill. For more on this, I want to bring in one of the major players in this bill's negoti-- and Senator Grassley, thanks so much for taking the time to call in this afternoon. We just heard reports that there's now no vote scheduled yet for this relief bill. Where are we in the process, and why are we seeing a holdup at this point?

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Well, I think, first of all, this language in the bill didn't come out until about two hours ago. So there is a certain period of time to let everybody study the [? multiple ?] pages that are in the bill. Now, what you're talking about was part of a discussion that we know about at 10:00 or 11:00 this morning, even though we didn't have the entire text of the entire bill. And possibility for amending that, but if that runs into a problem, there's also a parallel effort to see if the secretary of labor can take care of this by guidance or regulation.

JESSICA SMITH: Senator Jessica Smith here. So, Ben, are you confident that this still can get done in some form today if you have a few different avenues to deal with this issue?

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Well, first of all, I don't want to conclude that this is the issue that is going to hold it up. I think everybody knows that this bill has to pass. People talk about holding it up to get leverage, to get changes made. That may work. Or maybe the Secretary of Labor can take care of this issue for the three senators that raised it. And quite frankly, I think the questions raised by the senator are legitimate. On the other hand, this economy is shut down because of the virus.

It's shut down because government has people spaced out, want them to stay at home. Unemployment's going up minute by minute. This bill will be a shot in the arm to encourage people not to lay off, small businesses to open up when they can open up, and keep people employed, and also includes money into the pockets of people just as soon as the IRS can get the check out of $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for a couple, and $500 for children on top of that. For those people that have to be unemployed, there's a beefed-up unemployment help to the various states from the federal government. So we're trying to take care of people in need, but the whole point of this bill is recovery of the economy.

- Senator Grassley, you said the whole point of this bill is the recovery of the economy. I know you just listed off a couple of things that are likely to be included, but from your perspective, at this point, so much has been going on within this country in the last couple of weeks, what do you think the country's biggest needs are right at this point?

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Well, I think we're talking about the country's biggest needs. It's to not let the economy shut down. And every day it's shutting down a little bit more. And right now, I'd hate to tell you that there's anything more important than that, except to win the public health issue. So I would say, even more importantly than keeping the economy, getting it recovered, is stop the virus.

JESSICA SMITH: Senator, do you feel like there is still more to be done after phase three? Do you anticipate having a phase four or phase five next?

CHUCK GRASSLEY: I'll bet you in six weeks we'll be able to answer that, we are hoping, But you can only hope at this point because this is very untraditional slowdown in the economy, maybe nothing like it in the past. We are thinking in three to four months, things will look better. And we hope we can start gauging that halfway through the next three or four months. And if things are turning around at that point, then the answer is no. But if we're in the same place three or four months from now, where we are today, we're going to have to do more.

- Now, Senator, you've said that you wanted to put money in the hands of Americans as quickly as possible. But for those who don't have direct deposit, it's still going to take a couple months, so how are you going to help them?

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Well, if they're unemployed, they're going to get the enhanced unemployment benefits that are coming. And when the IRS has to write checks, and they're writing checks to 160 million people, you wouldn't expect all the checks to go out tomorrow.

- Senator, I think Dan Howley wanted to jump in here and ask a quick question for you.

DAN HOWLEY: Senator, when do you think this will eventually all come to an end? When will we, as American citizens, be able to go back to our daily lives and function as normal?

CHUCK GRASSLEY: I think that when we have reached the peak of the people that are getting the virus, and that's expected to be within a couple of weeks, then you can kind of track it the way it was in China. It's starting to turn in Italy, and Europe, and Iran. And it's already turned in China and South Korea. There's reason to believe it's going to follow the same pattern the United States. So after a couple of weeks, we ought to have a feeling of how soon things can turn around then. And if that is such that we can get people, get businesses opened up, it's going to turn around very fast.

Now, all we've been talking about in the bill that's before us is the help that's going to go out from the federal treasury. But the federal government is also doing other things in this bill and through the Federal Reserve System that's going to leverage lending to people that are going to need it, otherwise wouldn't need it if we hadn't had this pandemic. And so the whole-- besides the $2 trillion of federal dollars that are going out, it's felt that through the leveraging of lending that the federal government can back up and encourage that lending, that this is a $6 trillion boost to the economy.

- Senator Chuck Grassley, thanks so much for taking the time to call in, we really appreciate it.

CHUCK GRASSLEY: You bet, thank you very much.