Update 492 — Biden’s Economic Nominees
Skilled, Diverse, Facing Confirmation Fights
On Monday, President-elect Biden announced further nominations to comprise his cabinet and closest group of economic advisors. Biden’s intent to gather a progressive coalition, perhaps the most diverse in history, is manifest.
Following last week’s selection of Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary — a position which Yellen would be the first woman to fill if confirmed — Biden has now chosen five talented, experienced policy advisors and researchers, several of whom would also be historic firsts in their roles. Yet despite their qualifications, confirmation struggles loom.
Below we cover the most recent Biden economic policy nominees, their likely impact on their institutions, and prospects for confirmation.
- Neera Tanden (OMB Director)
If confirmed, Neera Tanden would be the first woman of color to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in history. Tanden, a longtime Clinton ally and mainstay on cable news, helped found the left-leaning Center for American Progress in 2003 and is its current Chief Operating Officer. Her policy specialty is healthcare, having successfully helped draft the Affordable Care Act and shepherd it through Congress. More recently, her focus has been on the COVID pandemic and its economic fallout. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy named Tanden to the state’s Restart and Recovery Commission this past April.
OMB is a giant executive branch agency, in charge of evaluating performance of federal programs and policies, ensuring they align with the White House’s budget and priorities. Tanden is perhaps the most controversial of nominees put forward by the Biden team so far, never mincing words while critiquing both the right and far left. Her confirmation is no sure thing, and the upcoming Senate fight will be nothing if not engaging; we wish her the best.
- Wally Adeyemo (Dep. Treasury Secy.)
On Monday, Biden announced his intention to nominate Obama Foundation president and economist Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo to be deputy secretary of the Treasury Department. Under President Obama, Adeyemo served as deputy director of the National Economic Council, assistant secretary for International Markets and Development at Treasury, (as well as deputy chief of staff of the Treasury), and chief of staff of the newly-formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the leadership of Elizabeth Warren.
When Adeyemo left the White House in 2016, he signed on as a senior adviser at the investment firm BlackRock, as well as at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Adeyemo, a 39-year old Nigerian-born attorney with impeccable academic credentials to match his wealth of expertise, will likely sail through the Senate confirmation and become the first African American Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
- Cecilia Rouse (Chair, Council of Economic Advisors)
The Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) is a three-person team tasked with providing data and advice to the president on domestic and international economic matters. The agency produces the annual Economic Report of the President, which assesses the state of the economy and outlines economic goals for the coming year.
Cecilia Rouse would be the fourth woman and first black woman to serve as Chair of the CEA. Currently dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Rouse is well-known for her work on labor economics, education, and workplace discrimination. In a renowned paper with Claudia Goldin, Rouse showed that employers were more likely to hire women applicants when the applicants were judged ‘blind’ i.e., without knowledge of the applicants’ genders.
During the Clinton presidency, Rouse served on the National Economic Council. Later, as a member of President Obama’s CEA, she advocated for increased fiscal stimulus in the wake of the 2008 recession. While her past confirmation to the CEA occurred in 2009 when Democrats controlled the Senate, Rouse’s previous experience in presidential administrations should smooth her path to confirmation, although conservative Republican Senators are sure to oppose her nomination.
- Jared Bernstein (Member, CEA)
Biden has also nominated the other members of his CEA. Jared Bernstein, currently a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning fiscal policy think tank, has been a prominent economic advisor for Biden for years. Bernstein was chief economist to Vice President Biden from 2009-2016 and played a major role in crafting the $800 billion economic rescue package in 2009. During the campaign, he continued to serve as one of Biden’s top economic advisors.
A longtime defender of the working and middle class and advisor to 20/20 Vision, Bernstein is also a known critic of free trade agreements, and he will refocus U.S. trade policy to benefit workers and balance trade relations. Further, throughout the pandemic, Bernstein has advocated for increased deficit spending, particularly on enhanced unemployment benefits. Bernstein’s nomination is a concrete indication of Biden’s commitment to smart, focused policy making.
- Heather Boushey (Member, CEA)
Long-time advisor to President-elect Biden, Heather Boushey will serve as another member of Biden’s CEA. Boushey is currently the president and chief executive of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a nonprofit she co-founded in 2013. Boushey is best known for her 2019 book, Unbound, in which she identifies the ways that economic inequality undermines economic growth. During the COVID-19 crisis, Boushey has advocated for automatic stabilizers — both for unemployment benefits and state and local aid.
Prior to heading the Washington Center, Boushey served as an economist for the Center for American Progress, the Joint Economic Committee, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the Economic Policy Institute. Boushey would have served as Chief Economist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 transition team. At the CEA, Boushey will continue to push for policies that will facilitate an inclusive post-COVID economic recovery.
Building Better Backers
In strong contrast to the previous administration, Biden’s economic team is characterized by expertise, diversity, and inclusive economic policies. While Biden was perhaps the most moderate of the Democratic presidential candidates during the primary, his nominees are committed to addressing economic inequality and protecting the most vulnerable Americans. Their confirmations will also be among the first tests of Mitch McConnell’s obstructiveness should Republicans keep control of the Senate. If they are confirmed, come 2021, we can expect Biden’s White House to put forward a large relief and stimulus package, which will be crucial to keeping small businesses, states, and families — that is, the economy — afloat until the virus is under control.