Four years after Democrats fought a bruising battle to stymie Donald Trump’s nomination of Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, the Senate finance committee unanimously approved Janet Yellen for the post.
Yellen, who served as Federal Reserve chair from 2014 to 2018 and before that was vice chair from 2010 , was approved on a 26-0 vote in the committee Friday morning.
Republicans failed to put up resistance to Yellen at the committee level, which many on Capitol Hill expect signals that she will easily be confirmed with a bipartisan vote. That is a stark contrast with Mnuchin’s nomination, which was bitterly opposed by Democrats who delayed a vote on the pick for three weeks. Ultimately, Mnuchin was confirmed on a largely party-line vote, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) being the only Democrat to vote in favor.
Yellen is expected to be the point person on the Biden administration’s economic policy. Conservatives had hoped that some Republicans would put up a fight over her nomination in order to signal resistance to tax hikes, regulatory expansion, and Biden’s emphasis on climate change and a radical view critical race theory view of equity over shared prosperity and equal treatment.
If confirmed, Yellen will be the second Fed chair to go on to assume the role of Treasury Secretary—and the first with an extensive background at the Fed. George William Miller, the 11th Fed chairman, served briefly in the role from March 1978 to August 1979 before becoming Jimmy Carter’s final Treasury Secretary. But Miller’s background was in the private sector whereas Yellen’s is in academia and the Fed, setting her apart from all prior Treasury Secretaries.
In tapping Yellen, Biden brushed aside the traditional view that Treasury Secretaries should have either private sector experience or experience in the Treasury Department—preferably both. This might have provided grounds for objecting to her nomination if Republicans had been inclined to push back. Supporters point to Yellen’s academic credentials and experience at the Fed but historically these have not been viewed as qualifications for the office of Treasury Secretary. They more closely align with membership on the Council of Economic Advisers, a White House panel chaired by Yellen in the 1990s.
Yellen is the first woman nominated as Treasury Secretary and, if confirmed, will be the first woman to hold that office. She was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve and the first to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. Ten years after Yellen’s stint at the CEA, Christina Romer became the second chair of that panel. Biden has tapped Princeton economist Cecilia Rouse to chair it in his administration.
The Senate Finance Committee is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.