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The Democratic-majority Senate on Monday confirmed former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury, after being nominated by President Joe Biden.
Yellen was confirmed in the post in a vote in the Senate, where she reached the simple majority she needed with 84 votes in favor and 15 against.
She thus becomes the first woman to head the Treasury Department in its 230-year history, and is also the first Treasury Secretary to have also chaired of the Federal Reserve, a position she held from 2014 to 2018.
In her hearing last week before the Senate Finance Committee, Yellen called on Congress for a large fiscal stimulus to alleviate the effects on the economy of the pandemic, while pointing to China’s “abusive practices” in trade and technology as a major economic challenge.
“Economists don’t always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: without major action, we risk a longer and more painful recession, and long-term scars on the economy down the road,” Yellen said.
Biden has unveiled an ambitious $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus plan, including new direct transfers to citizens, provisions to bolster federal unemployment benefits and additional funds for vaccine distribution.
The bill envisages raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, the latter proposal being considered quite harmful as it would lead to the loss of millions of jobs and force the closure of thousands of small businesses.
The key, however, lies with Congress, which will have to approve the proposal.
Democrats have a majority in both chambers, but in the Senate it is so tight that a tough legislative battle is expected.
On China, the renowned economist was much tougher during her hearing before the Senate Finance Committee than during her time as head of the U.S. central bank.
She strongly criticized the “abusive policies” in trade and technology transfers by China, which she considered “clearly the main strategic competitor” of the United States.
Yellen is the third Biden nominee to be confirmed by the Senate for a government post, after Avril Haines, who received the chamber’s approval as Director of National Intelligence, and General Lloyd Austin, for Secretary of Defense.