By Jennifer Jacobs and Jennifer Epstein
“Now we’re facing historic crises again — the pandemic and economic fallout that together have caused so much damage for so many and have had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable among us,” Yellen said. “It’s an American tragedy.”
In turn, nominees told of how they came to embrace progressive economic policies, either through their families’ struggles or seeing such struggles in the communities around them.
Neera Tanden, who Biden has picked to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, remembered time spent in public housing as her single mother worked to pay the bills.
“I’m here today because of social programs,” she said. She called it a “profound honor” to help shape those programs “to give everybody the fair chance my mom got.”
Nigerian-born Adewale Adeyemo, tapped to be deputy Treasury secretary, said the economy should be geared toward “giving people a shot when they need it most,” calling that a “lesson I learned from my parents.”
Biden, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Delaware, introduced the six officials — Yellen, Tanden, Adeyemo, Cecilia Rouse, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey — to the stage and said, “Help is on the way.”
“Let me be clear with this team, and others we’ll add in weeks ahead, we’re going to create a recovery for everybody,” he said.
“It’s time to invest in infrastructure, clean energy, climate change, manufacturing,” he said. “It’s time we address the structural inequities in our economy that this crisis has laid bare.”
Rouse has been chosen to lead the Council of Economic Advisers. Bernstein and Boushey would be council members.
Biden called on Congress to pass a stimulus package quickly, but said anything done during the lame duck session of Congress would be just the “start.”
Biden later told reporters he had “just heard” about the $908 billion stimulus proposal a bipartisan group of House and Senate members had introduced.
“I’ll take a look at it when I get back,” he said.
All six nominees will need to be confirmed by the Senate, control of which hangs in the balance until Jan. 5, when Georgia holds runoff elections for its two seats.
Republicans have largely responded politely to Biden’s selection of Yellen, who in 2014 was confirmed 56-26 to a four-year term chairing the Federal Reserve board. But they’ve already set their sights on Tanden, who as president of the liberal Center for American Progress hasn’t shied away from fights with Republicans and even some progressives on cable TV and on Twitter.
John Thune, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, criticized Tanden on Tuesday as a “hard-edged partisan” and said her nomination has aroused broad concerns among GOP senators, adding that the Biden team should take the pushback as “a warning signal.”
Biden has also selected Brian Deese, a BlackRock executive who spent eight years as an Obama economic and climate policy aide, to direct the National Economic Council. His appointment to the White House job, which does not require Senate confirmation, will not be formally announced until later in the week, a person familiar with the plan said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Biden’s initial economic picks would include multiple firsts. Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department, Rouse would be the first African American to chair the CEA and Tanden would be the first Indian-American to lead OMB.
Tanden worked on the Obama administration’s health-care policy efforts that culminated in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Rouse also sat on the CEA and is currently dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.
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. He 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 was Biden’s chief economic adviser in the White House during Obama’s first term, and was an outside adviser to his presidential campaign, as was Boushey, who runs the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and has advocated for paid parental leave and raising the minimum wage.