Elaine Chao reacts to tense House Education & Labor hearing with Secretary Walsh
Former Transportation and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao reacts on ‘The Story’
Former labor secretary under President George W. Bush, Elaine Chao, who also served as President Donald Trump’s transportation secretary, told Fox News on Wednesday that the current state of the labor force is “shocking.”
Chao’s comments came as current Labor Secretary Marty Walsh defended COVID emergency unemployment payments while businesses open back up and are in desperate need of workers.
Chao, the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told “The Story” in an exclusive interview that when she was Labor Secretary in 2000, the number of vacant job openings was half what it is today.
“I think there are facts that support the fact that so few of our workers are working. If you look at the labor participation rate when I was labor secretary, it was 67% out of a workforce of 157 million people. That labor participation rate has dropped to 61.6%,” she said.
“So there’s a whole swath of people that are not coming back to the workforce,” Chao continued.
Chao added she did not want to “impugn” the initial reasoning for the payments, as many workers were subjected to job loss due to government mandated lockdowns and virus mitigation efforts.
“They’re intended to help people who are vulnerable going through a difficult period. But we also don’t want the programs to provide the wrong incentive,” she said.
During a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on Wednesday, Walsh defended the Biden administration against criticisms from Republicans.
“Why are we continuing to promote this incentive for workers to stay home rather than get back to work?” New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik asked.
“That is not a handout,” Walsh shot back. “Those are unemployment benefits that people earned.”
Walsh also offered a terse response to another lawmaker who asked whether the emergency payments should end.
“I’m going to give you a simple answer to that. No.” Walsh said.
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