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Janet Yellen becomes US' 1st woman treasury secretary

By Lalit K Jha
January 26, 2021 09:10 IST
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The United States Senate has confirmed eminent economist Janet Yellen as the first woman Treasury Secretary of the United States.

IMAGE: Janet Yellen is the third cabinet member of the Biden Administration to be confirmed by the Senate. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

Yellen, 74, was confirmed by the Senate in a broad bipartisan support of 84-15 votes on Monday. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties have 50 members in the 100-seat Senate.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the chairman of the upper chambers of the Congress in her official capacity tilts the balance in favour of the Democrats.

Former chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen is expected to be sworn in soon. She is the third cabinet member of the Biden Administration to be confirmed by the Senate. The other two being Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

 

The nominee for the US Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate soon.

“The bipartisan support for Ms Yellen's multiple nominations reflect her breathtaking range of experience and just how well suited she is to manage the economic challenges of our time,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Monday.

A graduate of Brown and Yale, Yellen has taught economics at some of the world's most prestigious universities. She is best known for her tenure as Chair of the Federal Reserve, overseeing a period of falling unemployment and steady economic recovery from the global financial crisis.

“Few people possess the experience and expertise that Janet Yellen would bring to the Treasury, particularly during this moment of economic crisis,” Schumer said.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio appreciated Yellen's prior government service and her willingness to continue that service in the Biden Administration.

“However, her failure to commit to continuing efforts to address the Chinese Communist Party's exploitation of US capital markets, especially as Wall Street increases the flow of American capital to malicious Chinese companies, is disturbing,” he said.

“Future US policy must prioritise the interests of American workers, service members, mom-and-pop investors, and retirees over Beijing and lucrative fees for Wall Street,” said Rubio who opposed her nomination.

Rubio and few other Republican Senators including Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, and Mitt Romney wrote a letter to Yellen expressing concern for her assessment of risks to national security posed by the financial and technological interdependence between the US and China.

“As a key adviser to President Biden on national security issues that involve the most powerful and sophisticated tools of economic statecraft, it is critical that you demonstrate to Congress that your decisions will be informed by a clear-eyed view of the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party to the United States,” the senators wrote.

“It is equally imperative that all nominees to the Treasury Department follow your leadership in this regard,” they said.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that as Federal Reserve chair, Yellen led an important change to the status quo in economic policy, which had put too great a focus on inflation and deficits. “Chair Yellen called for more focus on employment, income and inequality.

She believed the economy could run a little hotter. The record shows that the Yellen approach was right. Unemployment went down, wages went up, and a lot of people were better off than they were before,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said when the American people elect a president, and when that president selects qualified and mainstream people for key posts, the whole nation deserves for them to be able to assemble their team. “I'll be voting to confirm Dr Yellen today. I look forward to working together on pro-growth policies that can help rebuild the thriving economy for American workers that was in place just one year ago,” he said ahead of the vote.

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Lalit K Jha
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