WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican senator accused Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday of lying about whether President Joe Biden was willing to meet with Republicans to discuss Social Security, a break in decorum that drew an admonishment from the panel’s chairman.
Senator Bill Cassidy repeatedly told Yellen during a Senate Finance Committee hearing that Biden has not been willing to meet with a bipartisan group of senators to address problems with Social Security.
“Why doesn’t the President care?” Cassidy asked.
“He cares very deeply – ” Yellen began to answer.
“Then where is his plan?” Cassidy persisted.
“He stands ready to work with – ” Yellen offered.
“That’s a lie,” Cassidy said.
Yellen later finished saying that Biden stands ready to work with Congress to address future shortfalls in Social Security, which Cassidy dismissed as “empirically” not true.
The exchange was a departure from the decorum usually often upheld in the Senate, and the respect typically afforded to Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair.
“Accusing witnesses of lying is over the line,” the committee’s Democratic chairman, Ron Wyden, admonished Cassidy.
Cassidy replied he wasn’t accusing the Treasury secretary of lying and understood she was repeating what she had been told.
Later, another Republican senator, Ron Johnson, exhibited impatience with Yellen. Johnson asked Yellen how much the total deficits were over the 10-year period covered in Biden’s budget. When Yellen paused to look at some documents, Johnson quipped, “You don’t know that off the top of your head?”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Nick Zieminski)