Biden said to pick Janet Yellen for Treasury amid deep economic slump

She has received bipartisan Senate support for Fed posts in the past

In Janet Yellen, above, Joe Biden would have a Treasury secretary nominee who has received bipartisan Senate confirmation for previous posts at the Fed.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
In Janet Yellen, above, Joe Biden would have a Treasury secretary nominee who has received bipartisan Senate confirmation for previous posts at the Fed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted November 23, 2020 at 6:03pm

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary. 

Yellen was the first woman to run the Fed and, if confirmed by the Senate, would make history as the first woman to run the Treasury Department. The Biden transition team did not respond to a request for comment, but The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other publications reported the choice. 

Yellen is an economist who would immediately face the challenge of guiding the nation’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. And, depending on the outcome of Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections in January, she may have to do so working with a GOP-controlled Senate that could oppose additional stimulus measures.

On the other hand, some economists have predicted a robust economic recovery once the pandemic has been brought under control. With recent vaccine announcements generating hope that most economic activity could return to normal next summer, Yellen could oversee a major rebound.

Yellen garnered bipartisan Senate support for her nominations to the Fed board in 1994 and 2011, and for her promotion to chairwoman in 2014. Thanks to her tenure on the Fed, she has relationships with senators on both sides of the aisle. That experience also means she has worked with other nations’ finance ministers and international trade officials.

Yellen was a Fed governor from 1994 to 1997, then chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. She went on to serve as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010 before returning to the Fed board under President Barack Obama.

She would be expected to reverse some of the deregulatory bent of the Treasury Department over the past four years.

Speaking at George Washington University in February, Yellen said the nation’s growing debt was “completely unsustainable,” a statement that might worry progressives who prefer robust stimulus. Those comments predated the COVID-19 pandemic and trillions of dollars of additional federal spending. Yellen has since made multiple comments endorsing aggressive fiscal measures to prop up the economy.

At the same talk, Yellen criticized the Trump administration’s focus on the U.S. trade deficit with China and called the retaliatory tariffs with China a “wash” but said that “the United States has real issues in terms of its trade relations with China, and many valid concerns that are certainly on the table for discussion.”

Biden promised last week that his pick would please both wings of the Democratic Party, but Yellen’s nomination pleased moderates more.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reportedly lobbied for the position and would have been the preferred choice of progressives. Warren tweeted Monday that Yellen would be an outstanding choice. “She is smart, tough, and principled. As one of the most successful Fed Chairs ever, she has stood up to Wall Street banks, including holding Wells Fargo accountable for cheating working families,” Warren tweeted.

Former Goldman Sachs Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn, who served as director of the National Economic Council under President Donald Trump, also praised the pick on Twitter.

“Janet Yellen is an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary. Having had the opportunity to work with then-Chair Yellen, I have no doubt she will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times,” he wrote.

Yellen, 74, got her doctorate from Yale University and has taught at the University of California, Berkeley. She has authored numerous papers with her husband, George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist now at Georgetown University.