WASHINGTON – The Senate Finance Committee approved President Joe Biden’s nomination of Janet Yellen to be the nation’s 78th treasury secretary on Friday, setting up a final vote that would make her the first woman to hold the job.
The Finance Committee approved her nomination on a 26-0 vote. The administration is urging a quick confirmation vote in the full Senate, saying it's critical to get the top member of Biden’s economic team in place as the Democratic president seeks to win approval of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the incoming chair of the Finance Committee, said he hoped to get Yellen's nomination approved by the full Senate later Friday, but the vote was not scheduled. It could happen as soon as Monday.
Republicans on the committee said they had a number of policy disagreements with Yellen and the Biden administration in such areas as raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy but believed it was important to allow Biden to assemble his economic team quickly.
At her confirmation hearing before the Finance Committee on Tuesday, Yellen had argued that without prompt action the nation faced the threat of a “longer, more painful recession.” She urged quick action on the package that would provide an additional $1,400 in payments to individuals making below $75,000 annually as well as providing expanded unemployment benefits, further aid for small businesses and support for cities and states to prevent layoffs.
The plan also provides more support for vaccine production and distribution.
During the hearing, Yellen faced substantial pushback on the plan from Republicans on the committee who argued that the package was too large, especially at a time that the federal budget deficit has soared above $3 trillion. They also objected to such measures as an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Yellen that Biden’s plan represented a “laundry list of liberal structural economic reforms.”
As treasury secretary, Yellen, 74, would occupy a pivotal role in shaping and directing Biden’s economic policies. She would enter the position after many years serving in other top economic jobs, including becoming the first woman to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve, from 2014 to 2018.
Since leaving the Fed, Yellen has been a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution, a liberal Washington think tank.
According to financial disclosure forms she provided during her confirmation, she collected more than $7 million in speaking fees during more than 50 in-person and virtual engagements over the past two years, including with many Wall Street firms. Yellen has agreed to recuse herself from decisions that would affect certain financial organizations.