Posts tagged with "Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen"

Biden seeks $33 billion for Ukraine, plus go-ahead to liquidate assets of Russian oligarchs

April 29, 2022

On April 28, the White House announced a proposal to allow U.S. authorities to liquidate the assets of Russian oligarchs and donate the proceeds to Ukraine—seeking what appears to be broad new legal powers to expand America’s financial war on the Kremlin amid bipartisan pressure in Congress, reports The Washington Post.

President Joe Biden will send the new plan to Congress along with a broader request for $33 billion to help the Ukrainians fight Russia’s invasion. Biden’s funding request includes:

  • $20 billion in military assistance for Ukraine,
  • $8.5 billion in economic assistance, and
  • $3 billion in humanitarian aid.

He also is seeking other funding, including $500 million to support production of U.S. crops to address the global food shock caused by the war.

The White House has not revealed the legislative text behind its proposal regarding the Russian oligarchs, but has said that the proposal “would improve” the federal government’s ability to send seized funds to Ukraine. Under current law, the United States can typically only freeze—not seize or liquidate—the assets of sanctioned individuals.

Civil liberties groups had raised concerned that prior congressional proposals ran afoul of constitutional protections by allowing federal law enforcement to circumvent judicial procedure. It was not immediately clear how the White House would seek to change the existing statute without violating those protections.

“This package of proposals will establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to use the proceeds to support Ukraine, and further strengthen related law enforcement tools,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

The White House said the roughly $20 billion in military aid it is seeking would help provide Ukraine and the “Eastern flank” allies with artillery, armored vehicles, anti-armor capabilities, and advanced air defense systems, among other weaponry.

The $8.5 billion in economic assistance would help Ukraine’s government pay for food, energy, and healthcare; while the humanitarian assistance is intended to buffer a growing international hunger crisis. Ukraine’s government has asked for at least $2 billion per month from the United States to meet its short-term economic needs.

The White House said its plan for liquidating Russian oligarch assets was released in close coordination with the Treasury Department, State Department, and Commerce Department.

Attorney General Merrick Garland previously told congressional lawmakers that he supports the efforts to repurpose seized Russian funds to Ukraine. But even some senior Biden administration officials had emphasized the need for caution around a potentially significant change in precedent to U.S. seizure law.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters last week that lawmakers needed to be careful when she was asked about a plan to give to the Ukrainians billions of dollars in seized Russian bank reserves.

“I would say that is very significant, and it is one that we would carefully need to think through the consequences of before undertaking it,” Yellen told reporters last week. “I wouldn’t want to do so lightly, and it’s something that I think our coalition and partners would need to feel comfortable with and be supportive of.”

The new powers sought by the White House reflect the pressure on the Western allies to intensify its economic campaign against Russia over its ongoing war against Ukraine. The Biden Administration’s proposal also includes a directive to make it a federal crime to “knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” and the Western allies are coordinating a response to Russia’s move to cut off natural gas to two NATO countries.

The latest White House proposal also calls for improving protections against money laundering and would give the United States the authority to seize proceeds of attempts to facilitate the evasion of sanctions.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Biden: Curbing filibuster to raise debt limit is ‘a real possibility’

October 7, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, October 5, that Democrats are considering a change to Senate filibuster rules to bypass a Republican blockade over raising the debt limit, which has set the United States on a collision course with a government default, The New York Times reports.

“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden said when asked if Democrats were considering the last-resort route, which would involve making an exception to allow for a debt ceiling bill to pass with a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes needed.

Senate Democrats discussed carving out the exception at their weekly lunch on Tuesday. No conclusions were reached, but notably, according to participants, the two strongest opponents of filibuster changes—Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—did not speak up in protest. They also did not speak up in support.

However, on Wednesday morning, Manchin indicated that he would not support modifying the filibuster in order to deal with the debt ceiling.

The move, once nearly unimaginable in a chamber steeped in decorum, has come under discussion as the Biden Administration and congressional Democrats have explored ways to head off a government default without Republican support.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned lawmakers of “catastrophic” consequences, including a recession and financial crisis, if Congress does not act before October 18, when the government is projected to be unable to pay its bills.

On Wednesday, the Senate was scheduled to vote on whether to take up legislation to raise the debt ceiling until December 2022. But with ten Republican senators needed to join Democrats in support, the vote is expected to fail.

Some Democrats have expressed hope that if curbing the filibuster is the only avenue left, the party could muster 50 votes for the rule change.

Biden’s remarks on Tuesday evening, made as he returned to the White House after a trip to Michigan to sell a bipartisan infrastructure package and expansive social spending bill, reflected the president’s increasingly confrontational approach to a divided chamber that has presented him with one legislative obstacle after another as he tries to pass his domestic agenda.

“As soon as this week, your savings and your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House on Monday, October 4—cautioning that a failed vote on Wednesday could rattle financial markets, sending stock prices lower and interest rates higher. “A meteor is headed for our economy,” he said.

The president has also bristled at the ultimatum put forth by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who has said Democrats must use reconciliation—a more complicated process that could take a week or more to come together—if they want to overcome Republican opposition to raising the debt limit.

Research contact: @nytimes