January 26, 2021 10:37:52 am
Written by Alan Rappeport
The Senate confirmed Janet Yellen, a labor economist and former Federal Reserve chair, to be Treasury secretary Monday, putting in place a key lieutenant to President Joe Biden at a perilous economic moment, as the new administration tries to revive an economy that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
By a vote of 84-15, the Senate confirmed Yellen, making her the first woman to hold the top job at Treasury in its 232-year history. Her quick bipartisan confirmation underscored the support she has from both Republicans and Democrats given her previous stint as Fed chair from 2014 to 2018.
Yellen now faces a new and considerable challenge. As Treasury secretary, she will be responsible for helping Biden prepare the $1.9 trillion stimulus package he has proposed, steer it through Congress and — if it is approved — oversee the deployment of trillions of dollars of relief money.
The magnitude of the task became clear over the weekend, as a bipartisan group of senators met virtually with senior White House officials Sunday and expressed doubt that such a large package was necessary.
Lawmakers in both parties raised the prospect of curtailing elements of the proposal, including the eligibility for a suggested round of $1,400 checks to individuals and ensuring that a more targeted distribution of additional aid, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion. They also asked the White House to provide data that would justify the proposed spending, which includes $350 billion in state and local aid and $130 billion to reopen schools shuttered by the pandemic.
Now, Yellen will be thrust into the middle of the talks, responsible for convincing many Republicans and some Democrats that the economy needs another multitrillion dollar spending package. At her confirmation hearing and in written responses to lawmakers, Yellen echoed Biden’s view that Congress must “act big” to prevent the economy from long-term scarring and defended using borrowed money to finance another aid package, saying not doing so would leave workers and families worse off.
“The relief bill late last year was just a down payment to get us through the next few months,” Yellen said. “We have a long way to go before our economy fully recovers.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines