Overnight Finance

On The Money: Biden calls Dems, urges big COVID bill | Biden’s SEC pick sidelined as GameStop drama unfolds | Bezos stepping down as Amazon CEO

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THE BIG DEAL—Biden calls Democrats, urges big COVID-19 relief bill: President Biden urged Senate Democrats in a call Tuesday to “go big” and move quickly on a COVID-19 relief bill, signaling that he is rejecting a $618 billion proposal sponsored by 10 GOP senators as “too small” even though he is open to some of their ideas.

“It was clear,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) after the call. “Go big and be prompt because the American public is really hurting and really needs this.”

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton brings us up to speed.

Recapping the call: 

  • Biden told Democrats that his clear preference is for Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion package, despite concerns voiced by Republicans about the impact on the deficit.
  • Biden didn’t close any doors to working with Republicans but wants Democrats to move a large package immediately, which means it’s almost certain to need to move under a special process known as budget reconciliation to be able to pass with a simple majority vote.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who was also on the Tuesday call with Senate Democrats, warned that pumping significantly less than Biden’s $1.9 trillion boost to the economy could have long-term consequences.

The takeaway: Democrats are making overtures to Republican colleagues to get them on board, but won’t hold out for a bipartisan deal if one isn’t close. Shortly after the call, the Senate voted 50-49 on a motion to proceed to a budget resolution that will include reconciliation instructions to allow a large COVID-19 relief package to pass without any Republican votes. 

Read more on the push for a coronavirus relief deal: 

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday that he does not support increasing the minimum age to $15 an hour — a critical roadblock to including the proposal in the final coronavirus relief bill.
  • Analysis: Biden plan would provide more taxpayers stimulus checks than GOP’s

LEADING THE DAY

Biden’s SEC pick sidelined as GameStop drama unfolds: President Biden’s choice to be the top cop on Wall Street has been left sitting on the sidelines as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) faces growing pressure to sort out the GameStop stock frenzy.

A logjam in approving Biden’s Cabinet picks has delayed Gary Gensler’s potential confirmation as SEC chairman, leaving the regulator without a permanent leader to bridge a partisan 2-2 split on its board.

The context: 

  • Lawmakers in both parties are calling on the SEC to take action after Reddit-driven stock rallies roiled the financial sector and forced several major investing companies to restrict customers’ trades.
  • While the SEC said last week it will investigate the fallout, Democrats and Republicans are set to dial up the political heat in two congressional hearings on the state of the stock market.

The GameStop saga will likely be the primary focus of Gensler’s hearing, and further delays could hamstring how much the SEC can respond to political pressure.

“This is not funneling capital to its best and highest uses to drive our economy. That’s not what’s going on here. And if you’re the SEC, that has to be your fundamental concern,” said Tyler Gellasch, executive director of Healthy Markets, an advocacy group that supports greater transparency in financial markets.

I break it down here.

Read more: 

Bezos stepping down as Amazon CEO: Amazon announced Tuesday that CEO Jeff Bezos will be stepping down from his top spot and transitioning to the role of executive chair of the company’s board.

Bezos will transition out of his role in the third quarter of 2021, the company said while announcing its quarterly earning report from the end of last year. Andy Jassy, the current head of Amazon Web Services (AWS), will succeed Bezos as CEO of the e-commerce giant.

In the report, Amazon announced its highest quarterly revenue ever, at $125 billion. Bezos touted the success at the end of last year in announcing his decision to step down as CEO, calling it the “optimal time for transition.”

The Hill’s Rebecca Klar has more here.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Almost $18 billion in unemployment aid was not distributed last month due to delays at the state and federal level, including former President Trump’s decision to wait a week to sign a massive coronavirus relief measure, according to a new study by a left-leaning group.
  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) on Tuesday introduced a bill aimed at providing tax relief to people who received unemployment benefits last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will join the Senate Finance Committee, giving her a prominent platform to push forward progressive proposals on tax policy and health care.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • A coalition of House Republicans on Tuesday urged their Senate colleagues to place a hold on Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s nominee for Commerce secretary, arguing that she has not clarified her stance on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. 
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to ease a major financial burden on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) by eliminating a requirement that it fund retirement benefits decades ahead of time.
Tags Cindy Axne Dick Durbin Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Elon Musk Gary Gensler Gina Raimondo Janet Yellen Jeff Bezos Joe Manchin Tim Kaine

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