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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, where she is likely to face tough questions about the federal response to two bank failures earlier this month: California-based Silicon Valley Bank on March 10 and New York-based Signature Bank just two days later.
According to prepared remarks, Yellen will tell lawmakers that in the hours after the banks collapsed, she and top Treasury officials determined that the situation posed a danger to “the broader banking system and the American economy” which merited emergency actions.
These included guarantees on uninsured deposits at the failed banks, and the creation of new liquidity sources for smaller banks experiencing a rush of withdrawals.
Thanks in large part to these actions, “aggregate deposit outflows from regional banks have stabilized,” Yellen told a bankers group Tuesday.
But while the trends are moving in the right direction, the amount of money banks borrowed in the week ending March 15 from the Fed’s discount window set a new record at $153 billion, according to the Fed’s weekly report, a sum that suggests the banking sector is not quite stable yet.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have said they want to know whether uninsured deposits at banks that fail in the future will be covered the same way they were at SVB and Signature.
Yellen and her deputies have so far said any blanket guarantee of uninsured deposits would require extraordinary circumstances, and likely an act of Congress.
There is precedent for such an act: In March of 2020, Congress authorized the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to lift the $250,000 limit on insured deposits in order to prevent bank runs triggered by pandemic conditions.