Janet Yellen. Picture: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES
Janet Yellen. Picture: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

President-elect Joe Biden rolled out the first set of nominations for his economic team on Monday, formally announcing his selection of Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary, Neera Tanden to lead the office of management and budget and Cecilia Rouse to head the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Biden also announced his intent to nominate Adewale Adeyemo, a former senior adviser at BlackRock, to be deputy Treasury secretary. Adeyemo is a Nigerian-born attorney and president of the Obama Foundation.

“As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever,” Biden said in a statement.

If confirmed, the nominations of Yellen, Tanden and Rouse would be the first time the top three Senate-confirmed economic positions went to women. Tanden’s nomination already appeared to be in trouble with Senate Republican aides expressing opposition on Sunday even before it was formally announced.

Yellen issued a statement on Twitter, saying “We must restore the American dream.”

“As Treasury secretary, I will work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all,” she said.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fluctuated on Monday amid the announcement that Yellen would be nominated. The gauge extended its 2020 decline to trade at the lowest since early 2018 before paring losses.

Yellen won praise across both parties on her nomination, with Patrick McHenry, the highest-ranking Republican on the House financial services committee, saying in a statement she has demonstrated “intellect, foresight, and independence” during the financial crisis.

Hank Paulson, who was Treasury secretary during the Bush administration, said: “Janet’s credibility with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will be enormously important as our country continues to recover from the economic shocks caused by the pandemic.”

Biden has also tapped two economic advisers from his presidential campaign, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, to be members of the CEA.

Biden did not announce his pick for a key White House economic post, director of the National Economic Council. But Brian Deese, another BlackRock executive who served in the Obama administration, is likely to be offered the job, people familiar with the matter said.

Drew Brandewie, an aide to Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, said on Twitter that Tanden “stands zero chance of being confirmed.”

Another aide said Republicans in the Senate would certainly block Tanden, who’s viewed as too progressive even though she’s also had squabbles with some on the left.

The choices show Biden turning to experienced Washington hands as he begins building his economic team, with an eye towards racial and gender diversity.

The group of six nominees includes three women, two African Americans and an Indian American as Biden seeks to put women and minorities in jobs historically held by white men.

He received some criticism from Jim Clyburn, the most senior black legislator in Congress, who is credited with helping Biden with the South Carolina primary, a win that sped his progress towards the nomination.

In an interview with Juan Williams for his column in The Hill newspaper, Clyburn indicated he was disappointed the president-elect had named just “one black woman so far” to a senior position — Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador.

“I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces,” Clyburn added. “But so far it’s not good.”

Tanden, an Indian-American who leads the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress, worked on the Obama administration’s health-care reform and was a close adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Rouse also worked in the Obama administration as a member of the CEA and is dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. If confirmed, she would be the first African American to chair the CEA.

Adeyemo would bring international economic experience to the Biden team, complementing Yellen’s more domestic focus over the course of her academic and government career. Adeyemo was deputy chief of staff to Jack Lew when he was Treasury secretary and was the first chief of staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Elizabeth Warren.

Bernstein and Boushey are well liked by progressives. Boushey, who runs the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, has advocated for paid parental leave and raising the minimum wage. Bernstein was Biden’s chief economic adviser in the White House during former president Barack Obama’s first term.

Biden’s team will inherit a US economy rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, and will have to try to sustain its revival. There’s already signs of increasing fragility as virus infection rates increase and states begin to lock down businesses again. That threatens the nascent recovery of the labour market, with jobless claims ticking up and payroll gains forecast to slow further in November.

Bloomberg

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