Politico chief economic correspondent Ben White said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) unfairly attacked Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin by misrepresenting the government's handling of corporate coronavirus loans.
"Senator Warren here is trying to score points, populist points saying we're giving away money to corporations who fire their employees," White said Tuesday on MSNBC. "As the treasury secretary said, that's not particularly fair because that's not what's happening."
During Mnuchin's Tuesday testimony before the Senate Banking Committee about coronavirus relief efforts, Warren asked if Mnuchin would require companies that received federal funding from the coronavirus stimulus packages to keep workers on payroll. Mnuchin did not address whether companies would be required to maintain payrolls, but he said keeping people employed is a priority.
Warren criticized Mnuchin for prioritizing aid to Wall Street and "leaving the American people behind."
White said there is a debate over how businesses can use federal funding, adding that Warren's criticism unfairly neglected to take into account businesses that need financial flexibility.
"Businesses have a lot of things they have to pay for, rent, mortgage, all of the other stuff that is on their balance sheet," White said. "So a lot of businesses want that flexibility."
"It is actually probably a good idea to give it to them while at the same time trying to make sure that the focus is on keeping people employed," White added. "Senator Warren was trying to score some political points there. Maybe she did, but I don't think she was entirely fair."
The Treasury Department has scrambled to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. A report released Monday found the department has spent little of the $500 billion in small business and local government funding apportioned to it by the CARES Act.
Warren's attack comes in the wake of a failed presidential run in which the senator reversed her position on accepting super PAC money as her campaign neared its end.