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Biden picks former Fed Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary: Report

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Yahoo Finance's Brian Cheung discusses President-Elect Joe Biden's plan to nominate former Fed Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: We want to bring in Brian Cheung for more on this. And Brian, we read the headline earlier in the hour. But Janet Yellen being President-Elect Joe Biden's pick for Treasury Secretary.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Yeah, well, the news coming from the "Wall Street Journal" just a few minutes ago that Janet Yellen, the former Fed Chair, will reportedly be Joe Biden's pick for Treasury Secretary. That would make her the 78th Treasury Secretary and the first woman in the history of the Treasury Department. So pretty remarkable there.

Again, she will need to get confirmation from the Senate first. But this apparently is the pick that the Biden team was talking about last week that could appease both progressives in addition to moderates, a very critical element when you consider that she does need to get a majority of confirmation votes in the Senate in order to take on this role. So that's something to watch for once the Biden team does come into office in January of next year.

A little bit more about Janet Yellen for people that aren't aware. Again, she was the head of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018. She was an Obama appointee. Before that, she was the Fed vice chair in addition to, before that, the head of the San Francisco Fed. So she's very historied in the monetary policy side of economic policy in the United States.

Again, this is not necessarily her first foray into engineering fiscal policy. People who have been following Janet Yellen's career will recall that she was part of the Council of Economic Advisors under the Clinton administration. So in addition to having experience working Capitol Hill, she also has experience working inside of a White House.

But again, it does seem like Janet Yellen will be the pick to head the Fed-- or rather, to head the Treasury Department. She's actually, by the way, the second Federal Reserve chair to hold that role. The first one was G. William Miller a few decades ago. But again, Janet Yellen reportedly the head of the Treasury Secretary under that Biden administration coming next year.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Brian, it's a little early, but is there expectation that Mitch McConnell would put up any kind of roadblock here in the Senate? We know that Republicans are murmuring about blocking some of the Biden picks.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, if he wanted to, that'd be a very difficult case to make because she's gotten bipartisan support in the many confirmation votes that she's had in Washington DC. Keep in mind that even before becoming Fed chair, she needed to get a Senate vote to become the Fed vice chair before that, and that was in 2010.

So she's gotten Republican support in both of those votes to become Fed vice chair in 2010 and then Fed chair in 2014. So it'd be very hard to make the argument that a bunch of Republicans all of a sudden now don't support her because the president happens to be a Democrat. Now, of course, that doesn't mean that she will breeze easily to nomination.

These types of picks often have to go through a pretty intense amount of congressional hearings in addition to hours of questioning from the senators and public remarks, as opposed to, obviously, what might be happening behind the scenes in her meetings individually with those senators. Now, we remember that the Steven Mnuchin nomination was particularly tense and contentious at times. So it could definitely be the case that some Republicans hammer her on some of her policies.

Even-- we could even see that from Democrats as well. There's been some criticism of the Yellen-led rate hikes that began in December 2015. There's been some consensus even within the Federal Reserve itself today that some of those rate hikes may have been preemptive and that if the Fed had waited a little bit longer to start raising rates, the labor market could have tightened and pulled people back into a speed that would have gotten us to 3.5% unemployment earlier than it did.

But again, Janet Yellen did have bipartisan support in the past, which would make it quite difficult for her to not get a confirmation if she did ultimately end up getting that vote.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Brian Cheung, who covers the Fed, and will be covering, it looks like, a Treasury Secretary who used to be at the Fed, thank you very much.