Bipartisan coalition of senators voice approval for Biden picks at top of the Fed

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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators are voicing support for President Biden’s picks to lead the Federal Reserve, boding well for Jerome Powell’s odds at a second term as Fed chair and Lael Brainard to win a promotion to Fed vice chair.

On Monday morning, the Biden administration voiced support for the two existing Fed officials, who will be tasked with the immediate challenges of rising inflation and an incomplete labor market recovery.

“I’m confident that chair Powell and Dr. Brainard’s focus on keeping inflation low, prices stable, and delivering full employment will make our economy stronger than ever before,” President Biden said in a statement.

In the hours after the announcement, key senators — who will vote on both of their nominations — generally appeared to applaud the nominations.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement that he “look[s] forward to working with Powell” on the economic recovery. Brown’s colleague on the other side of the committee, Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), said he already supports Powell’s renomination.

A number of other GOP members have also already announced their intention to support Powell.

Brainard similarly received positive feedback from Capitol Hill after the administration announced its intention to promote her from Fed governor to Fed vice chair.

“Dr. Lael Brainard has spent her life fighting for a stronger, fairer economy — one where workers share in the growth and prosperity they create and where their hard work is not gambled away by reckless Wall Street banks,” Brown noted. Toomey said he has concerns about Brainard’s regulatory policies, which may be assuaged since she was not picked for the vice chair of supervision role (a separate post that will be vacant come next month).

Some progressive Democrats who may have had hopes for a Brainard chairmanship suggested they would vote against Powell’s renomination. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), said last week he preferred a Fed chair that would be more aggressive on policing climate-related financial risks. Merkley confirmed Monday he will vote no on Powell.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she would support Brainard’s nomination for vice chair but oppose Powell.

“Powell’s failures on regulation, climate, and ethics make the still-vacant position of Vice Chair of Supervision critically important,” Warren said. The Biden administration says it will announce nominations for the other remaining vacancies at the Fed in early December.

Still, both Powell and Brainard have had a history in previous Congresses of securing well beyond the votes needed to win confirmation.

In 2014, both Powell and Brainard faced the Senate for Fed governor roles. Powell won confirmation in a 67-24 vote and Brainard in a 61-31 vote. When President Donald Trump tapped Powell for the top job in 2018, Powell won even more support in an 84-13 vote.

Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at BTIG, told Yahoo Finance Monday that he expects both to “cruise” to confirmation.

“This is going to be a relatively painless confirmation process that should be wrapped up by the end of the year,” Boltansky said.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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