Biden Picks Janet Yellen For Treasury Secretary : Biden Transition Updates Joe Biden plans to nominate the former Federal Reserve chair as his Treasury secretary. She would play a leading role in helping the economy recover from the pandemic.
NPR logo

Biden Picks Janet Yellen To Be Treasury Secretary In Historic Appointment

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/938124791/938326643" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Biden Picks Janet Yellen To Be Treasury Secretary In Historic Appointment

Biden Picks Janet Yellen To Be Treasury Secretary In Historic Appointment

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/938124791/938326643" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President-elect Biden's early Cabinet picks suggest an emphasis on experience and also on diversity. He says he will nominate a Latino to head the Department of Homeland Security. He chose the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence. The office of treasury secretary has existed since Alexander Hamilton's time, and there's never been a woman in that job - until now. Biden says Janet Yellen will be his nominee sent to the Senate.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to talk about Yellen's nomination. Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So a fairly mainstream pick, even if it breaks a barrier.

HORSLEY: That's right. Yellen is a trailblazer, but it's a familiar trail by now. So people seem reassured by this news yesterday. The stock market took news of Yellen's nomination in stride. Progressives certainly welcomed it. And some conservatives applaud it as well. Yellen is a familiar face in Washington. She led the Federal Reserve for four years. She was also a top economist in the Clinton White House. She's described as extremely competent and experienced. She's familiar to central bankers around the world. And she's somebody who can build consensus, which would be another valuable skill at the top of the Treasury Department.

INSKEEP: And it's not like there's nothing to do with the economy. What would her priority have to be?

HORSLEY: Well, no surprise, it starts with the pandemic, which has killed more than a quarter-million people in this country and is once again pushing hospitals to the limits. Yellen echoes the president-elect when she told Bloomberg Television last month that's the biggest challenge that the incoming administration has to tackle.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLOOMBERG TELEVISION BROADCAST)

JANET YELLEN: I think we need a much more effective effort than we have had. And if we have that, it'll be good not only for health, but for being able to open up the economy.

HORSLEY: You know, the positive news we've had about vaccines in recent weeks does offer hope for an economic rebound during the spring and summer. But we've still got to get through the winter first. And so for the moment, we're going to have to rely on those more traditional public health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.

INSKEEP: Scott, in some ways, this winter coming up may remind people of the transition of Franklin Roosevelt after 1932. The Depression was on. There wasn't a new president, and the Depression was getting worse by the day. Now we're in this transition period, and the pandemic seems to be getting worse and worse.

HORSLEY: That's right. And the president-elect and his team are pushing lawmakers to pass a new round of coronavirus relief now, not wait for the new administration to come into office. Yellen stressed in that Bloomberg TV interview that the money Congress pushed into the economy last spring was really helpful in jumpstarting the recovery. But it was only a down payment. And now new bills are coming due.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLOOMBERG TELEVISION BROADCAST)

YELLEN: Fiscal policy response in the United States has been extremely impressive, but the fiscal support has now lapsed.

HORSLEY: Just as an example, Steve, we've got 13 million people in the country who are getting emergency unemployment benefits right now that are set to expire at the end of December. So Democrats want to see those programs extended, and they want to see help for state and local governments as well.

INSKEEP: Well, the other agency that can act to help, of course, is the Federal Reserve. But isn't the outgoing administration moving to restrict what the Fed can do?

HORSLEY: That's right. Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin decided to end some of the Federal Reserve's emergency lending programs that have been helping corporations, mid-sized businesses, local governments. Mnuchin's position is those emergency programs have worked, so now it's time to shut them down. Others are saying, not so fast. You know, the emergency's not over yet, and taking away those tools delivers one more challenge for the incoming president and his team.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.