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Biden cabinet: Janet Yellen set to become first female treasury secretary

John T. Bennett
·2-min read
<p>Janet Yellen could become the first woman to hold Washington’s three most powerful economic jobs as the country reels from coronavirus.</p> (Getty Images)

Janet Yellen could become the first woman to hold Washington’s three most powerful economic jobs as the country reels from coronavirus.

(Getty Images)

Crises and necessity have forced President-elect Joe Biden to turn to experienced Washington hands as he builds his administration. Enter Janet Yellen, who could soon become the first woman to hold the four most-powerful economic posts in the federal government if the Senate approves her to become treasury secretary.

She was Federal Reserve chair under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. She also chaired the influential White House Council of Economic Advisers under former President Bill Clinton. If confirmed by the Senate, she will soon hold a sort of Washington triple crown.

Ms Yellen was Fed chair from February 2014 until the same month four years later. The US economy grew steadily during that time, with the largest gross domestic product (GDP) year-on-year increase (1.31 per cent) coming between 2015 and 2016.

The Biden transition team has yet to announce her nomination, but the Wall Street Journal and other major publications, citing sources with knowledge of the pick, published articles calling her the nominee.

Mr Trump, who ran as a Washington outsider and disrupter in 2015 and 2016, never seriously publicly clashed with Ms Yellen during the full year they overlapped in government. He considered nominating her for another term, but reportedly was too irked by her small 5’3’’ frame.

He went with the taller Jerome Powell, who he has spent two years criticising over his reluctance to dramatically lower interest rates. “Tough on our exporters and puts the USA at a competitive disadvantage. Must be the other way around. Should ease and cut rate big. Jerome Powell led Federal Reserve has called it wrong from day one. Sad!” Mr Trump tweeted in March.

Ms Yellen’s expected nomination could irk some progressive House and Senate Democrats who argue Washington insiders for decades have failed to enact policies to help lower-wage earners. Her sharp criticism of Mr Trump might help ease any public condemnations by Mr Biden’s more-liberal party mates.

“I doubt that he would even be able to say that the Fed's goals are maximum employment and price stability, which are the goals that Congress has assigned to the Fed,” she said in February 2019. "He's made comments about the Fed having an exchange rate objective in order to support his trade plans, or possibly targeting the US balance of trade.

“And, you know, I think comments like that shows a lack of understanding of the impact of the Fed on the economy, and appropriate policy goals,” Ms Yellen told Market Watch.

One progressive senator signalled her support for the nomination and praised the former Fed chairwoman.

“Janet Yellen would be an outstanding choice for Treasury Secretary. She is smart, tough, and principled,” tweeted Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “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.”

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