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It would be ‘unconscionable’ for congress to adjourn in December with no stimulus deal: Sen. Van Hollen

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest with stimulus, Biden's transition, and U.S.-China trade relations.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: But first, that $908 billion bipartisan stimulus proposal proving to be short-lived with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejecting it almost as soon as it was proposed. So what should Americans expect on the stimulus front now with the December 11th funding deadline to avoid a shutdown quickly approaching? Let's kick today's show off there with Maryland Senator, Chris Van Hollen joining us now. And Senator Van Hollen, thanks for taking the time to chat here. I mean, it didn't last long, that proposal when you think about the action here, guided here by a Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Talk to me about your expectations as we approach that funding deadline to maybe get something through here as it sounds like he wants to rope that funding discussion in with what you're going to see on the stimulus front.

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well Zack and Akiko, great to be with you. And yes, Senator McConnell's reaction to that bipartisan proposal was very disappointing, to say the least. I think it would be absolutely unconscionable for the Congress to adjourn in December without getting an additional emergency COVID-19 response bill. And while that bipartisan proposal did not include everything everyone wanted and include some things that people don't, and there were still some unresolved issues, I should say. Nevertheless, it was a move in the right direction. So it's unclear where we're going now with McConnell having put the kibosh on that. It's really important that Republican senators push back on him because we need to get something done.

AKIKO FUJITA: I mean, we're talking about $908 billion, it seems like the Senate Majority leader going for something much lower. Is there a compromise in between? And if so, what should be Prioritized

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, it's not just that the number is lower, although his proposal does not provide meaningful relief to workers and families and small businesses struggling around the country. It's that he also is trying to exploit this pandemic to include some other provisions. So for example, the three martini lunch tax break. Another provision to give wealthy families that ability to take a tax cut to provide private tutoring to their children. A whole range of things that are absolutely unnecessary, and in fact again try to leverage a pandemic to try to get these special interest provisions.

So the number that the Bipartisan group came up with, as you know, was already a big compromise. I mean, if you look at the numbers that the Trump administration was considering in their negotiations with Speaker Pelosi, they were much, much higher than this number. So it already represents a compromise.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. I mean, when we talk about that, clearly the numbers are in flux here. And you think about we're coming down from $3 trillion to-- or it sounds like Mitch McConnell wants to be at $500 billion. I mean, there's a lot going on. But when you think about the criticisms thrown towards Democrats here, it's also that we've heard good getting in the way of great to not getting something through coming down a little bit more. Why not maybe get something through and come down on that number on the Democratic side and then revisit it once President-elect Biden has his administration in there. Why not do something like that?

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's exactly what this is. I mean, you're describing--

ZACK GUZMAN: But even further down even further to the $500 billion.

CHRIS VAN HOLLER: This is a bipartisan proposal. As you just pointed out, it's down from over $2 trillion to just in the $900 billion range. It's important to meet these different categories, both in terms of pandemic relief. On the unemployment front, it includes the additional $300 a week down from $600 a week. The McConnell proposal provides no additional weekly help there. In addition, this provides some help to state and local governments that are struggling. As the Chairman of the Federal Reserve testified yesterday in front of the Banking Committee, over a million people have already been laid off. So this this is a compromised proposal, that's why it's bipartisan, right?


CHRIS VAN HOLLER: So you already have Senator Murkowski criticizing Leader McConnell for putting forward what she calls is just a messaging Republican bill as opposed to a substantive compromise. So at some point, people really need to call on Senator McConnell to step up to the plate with bipartisan compromise, which is what this represents.

ZACK GUZMAN: And yeah. And Senator, just to be clear, I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that too. I mean, we're hearing right now Jay Powell talking for the second day stressing the fact that small businesses are going to be struggling through this winter until something is done as well. So I mean, I guess what I'm pushing for here is in your mind, if there was one thing that you would want to see get through now ahead of that December 11th deadline at the risk of getting nothing, what it would be?

CHRIS VAN HOLLER: Well, what I would support is what's reflected in this bipartisan compromise, which as we were discussing already means that people are leaving on the table lots of important relief measures. But this represents exactly that compromise. It includes extended unemployment insurance relief, it includes ample help to small businesses who are really struggling, as you say. It provides some more food assistance because of we just saw record numbers of Americans who are food insecure. And it provides some help to schools, transit systems where, just for example, the general manager of the Washington metro system just talked about 1,400 people being laid off this month in the Washington metro system. That's now no matter what.

And another over 2,000 people being laid off next year if they don't get additional relief. So that's why this bipartisan proposal reflects exactly the kind of compromise that you're talking about. Again, there's some loose ends that need to be tied up. But in terms of the numbers, this represents that compromise. It's exactly what the American people had been looking for, what they should receive in terms of people working together to get things done. And it is just unfortunate that within hours, Senator McConnell launched a grenade attack on it.

AKIKO FUJITA: Senator, I want to pivot to an issue you've been spearheading for some time, which is the increased scrutiny on US-listed Chinese companies. You've got the House voting on a bill that you initially introduced over in the Senate, which would essentially extend the audits, what is required of American companies listed right now to Chinese companies as well. Even as that plays out, of course, we've seen a number of Chinese companies this year. Alibaba, JD.com, NetEase go for secondary listings in Hong Kong, raising the concern that they could potentially be laying the groundwork for an exit from the US. As you look to the impact this bill could have, how many companies do you think are likely to exit the US? Chinese companies.

CHRIS VON HOLLER: At the end of the day, I don't think any Chinese companies are going to exit the US market, except for those that maybe really trying to cover up fraud on their books. This says that Chinese companies have to comply with the same rules and transparency requirements, not just of American companies listed on The Exchange, but any company anywhere in the world. Without, this provision Chinese companies are able to hide from American investors important information.

AKIKO FUJITA: But Senator, isn't the issue of Chinese law that essentially these companies in the past that I know you have highlighted, even if they wanted to open the books are not allowed to do so because of how the Chinese government specifically operates saying you cannot hand over the paperwork, these audits that are done on Chinese soil. I mean, doesn't that leave these Chinese companies with really no choice if they have to be in compliance within the next two to three years?

CHRIS VON HOLLER: Well, there is a three year period, as we just mentioned. And if we allow a country to pass laws that shield their own companies from providing important information to American investors, then other countries would follow suit. Right now, China is the only outlier in the entire world. And so this is a time where their companies are going to have to find a way to provide this information or ask or their own governments to change some of these rules. Look, the American markets are very important to these Chinese companies. And so, I do not anticipate them leaving. I anticipate over the next three years finding a way to comply with these rules.

AKIKO FUJITA: You had President-elect Joe Biden speaking to the "New York Times" today saying that he intends to keep the 25% tariffs in place on Chinese exports into the US. I know you've been quite critical of Chinese actions, including those of the encroachment on Hong Kong. If you are in fact in a position to advise Joe Biden, what would you specifically advise he do on the issue of trade with China?

CHRIS VON HOLLER: Well first, let me just say on the issue of holding Chinese companies accountable, it's been a great partnership with Senator Kennedy on a bipartisan basis. With respect to China, you're right. What we're seeing in Hong Kong, for example, right now is continued a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. I expect an incoming Biden administration to do much more to uphold. The principles of rule of law, of freedom of speech, as part of our values and our foreign policy.

In terms of China's efforts to use their government power on the economic front, I do expect the Biden administration to confront that. I've been part of bipartisan efforts here in the Senate on Huawei and other examples where China has used its power stolen secrets in order to gain an unfair advantage. So I expect the Biden administration to hold China accountable and to do it in a more consistent way. The Trump administration, we've seen a lot of zigging and zagging. We go from President Xi being President Trump's best buddy to being the devil. I think with Joe Biden in the White House, you're going to see a more consistent and predictable politic.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. We'll see how that all shakes out here, and including closely watching what's going on in those negotiations there on the stimulus front as well. But for now, Senator Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, appreciate you taking the time to chat today.

CHRIS VON HOLLER: Good to be with you. Thanks.