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Janet Yellen Confirmation Hearing Set for Tuesday; Learn More About Joe Biden’s Pick for Treasury Secretary

  • Senate set to consider Janet Yellen as pick for new Treasury Secretary on Tuesday
  • A previous chair of the Federal Reserve Board, Yellen oversaw long-lasting changes in Fed policy
  • Yellen has voiced her support for additional stimulus to aid economic recovery, but has also expressed caution on debt

A seasoned economist with decades of experience in macroeconomic policy, Janet Yellen is set for a confirmation hearing for Treasury Secretary on Tuesday.

Yellen’s hearing will take place before the Senate Finance Committee, one day before Biden’s inauguration. The schedule for the confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet nominees remains uncertain, as the Senate will be charged with holding a second trial to act on an article of impeachment passed against President Donald Trump in his final days in office. Biden has said he hopes the Senate will be able to split its time between this responsibility and acting on his nominations.

If confirmed, Yellen would be the first women to be named Treasury Secretary as well as the first person in the job to hold all three of the top federal economic positions. She previously served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

Yellen, 74, would also be in a position to have a major influence on President-elect Joe Biden’s economic policies, as the Treasury Secretary’s role includes tasks such as oversight of financial institutions and advising the President on fiscal policy. Biden’s recently proposed $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package is already strongly in line with what she has previously recommended, and Yellen has also been a strong advocate for climate action, financial regulation, and equitable economic growth.


Yellen graduated from Brown University summa cum laude in 1967 with an economics degree. She earned a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1971.

After working as an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976, Yellen spent a year as a Federal Reserve economist before becoming a lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has been a faculty member of the University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business since 1980, holding the title of professor emeritus since 2006.

Between 1997 and 1999, Yellen was chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. She was president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.

In 2010, Yellen became vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board and chair in 2018, winning bipartisan support in each appointment. While she expressed interest in staying on as Fed chair in 2018, Trump opted to replace her with current chair Jerome Powell.

Yellen is a member of numerous groups and advisory boards. She was a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council, an organization with a mission to “convene global opinion leaders around new climate solutions based on carbon dividends.” At the time of her nomination she was an advisor to the Magellan Financial Group Ltd., an Australian financial firm, and has promised to resign this position if confirmed.

In addition, Yellen was the president of the American Economic Association, an economic research organization. She served as vice president of this organization from 2004 to 2005 and was appointed a Distinguished Fellow in 2012.

Yellen was also a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. She is on leave from the institution following the nomination.


Yellen is known as a Keynesian economist, supporting the philosophy that markets are fundamentally flawed and that government regulation is necessary for them to run correctly. She previously criticized a shift in fiscal policy during the Great Recession, saying turning the focus to debt concerns helped slow recovery from the crisis. However, Yellen has also warned that recent policies regarding budget deficits are unsustainable.

Although Yellen was criticized for raising concerns on economic inequality while leading the Fed, with some questioning whether the issue fell outside the scope of her job, the topic has become more of a routine consideration within the Fed. Powell, whose term does not expire until 2022, has also made sure the Fed has a voice in matters such as strengthening the labor market with more equitable growth and encouraging opportunities for women and minorities.

Yellen convinced the Fed to set a 2 percent annual target for inflationary growth while serving as Vice Chair. This benchmark has remained unchanged since that point, although the Fed has recently committed to allowing modest inflation above 2 percent if necessary to support better jobs growth.

A proponent of strong banking regulation, Yellen closed her term as Fed chair with an unprecedented enforcement action against a major financial institution. In response to Wells Fargo’s creation of millions of phony accounts to help meet inflated sales goals, alongside other “pervasive and persistent misconduct,” the Fed capped the bank’s assets at $2 trillion.

Yellen has also voiced support for a carbon tax to reign in greenhouse gas emissions, and has supported the lending backstops put in place at the Fed during the pandemic. She suggested that the Main Street Lending Program, which was aimed at small and medium-sized businesses and saw little use despite a lending capacity of $600 billion, may not have been robust enough.

Last summer, Yellen and fellow former Fed chair Ben Bernanke spoke in favor of economic relief measures similar to those unveiled in Biden’s plan, including accelerated efforts to address the pandemic, enhanced unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments. The last item proved especially contentious during efforts to pass a new round of economic stimulus, and was ultimately excised from a bipartisan agreement on renewed aid. Yellen and Bernanke acknowledged that additional stimulus would increase an already record-level budget deficit, but argued that the severity of the crisis along with low interest rates made further spending more effective than attempting to reduce the debt.

One factor likely to help improve Yellen’s chances of confirmation is her reputation as a consensus builder. She has been able to foster agreements between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party. Yellen has maintained a friendly relationship with Powell and even earned praise from Trump as “a wonderful woman who has done a terrific job.”


Some lawmakers have praised Yellen’s credentials while also acknowledging past disagreements with her policies. Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, noted his opinion that Yellen kept Fed policies too accommodative for too long by maintaining low interest rates to help strengthen the labor market.

It also emerged that Yellen has received $7.2 million in speaking fees before banks and major corporations. She has promised to consult with an ethics lawyer on any issues involving companies from which she has received compensation within the past year. Transition officials defended her record on the issue, saying Yellen is “not someone who pulls punches” in taking on corporate corruption.

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