Senate confirms Janet Yellen as new Treasury Secretary

The Senate voted Monday evening to confirm Janet Yellen as treasury secretary with bipartisan support. The final breakdown of the vote was 84 yeas to 15 nays. Yellen is the first woman to lead the department in its more than 230-year history.

“I look forward to working with her to get our economy back on track and Americans back to work,” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden tweeted immediately following the vote.

“As we face an economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, we will need steady, proven leadership at the Treasury Department,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins in a statement after voting for Yellen. “A highly respected economist, Dr. Yellen served first as vice chair and then chair of the Federal Reserve. She has served under Democratic and Republican presidents and during periods of economic crisis and economic growth.”

All 15 votes against Yellen’s confirmation came from Republicans lawmakers. Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, one of those who voted against Yellen, said in a statement that Yellen “backs policies proposed by President Biden I cannot support.”

“She seems too eager to raise taxes on the American people, her energy policies are job killers, and her willingness to unilaterally double the federal minimum wage with little regard for its impact on jobs is frightening,” Cramer continued. 

Her nomination was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee Friday with unanimous support, 26 to 0, and both Democrats and Republicans praised her after the committee vote. “I think this is a great way to start the new year, with a unanimous vote on behalf of someone who I believe may in fact be the most competent, qualified secretary of the treasury we have ever had,” said committee member Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Ranking member Senator Ron Wyden called Yellen an “NBA All-Star” when it comes to clearing the Senate nomination process, noting Yellen has been previously confirmed four times for economic positions by the Senate.

Yellen’s first order of business will be helping to lead the U.S. out of an ongoing economic crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 10 million people unemployed and millions more struggling to make ends meet.

She is the first person ever who will have served as treasury secretary, Federal Reserve Board chair, and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Republicans also acknowledged Yellen extensive background in the economic sector and President Biden’s right to pick his own Cabinet members. 

“There’s no doubt about the qualifications of Dr. Yellen,” said Chairman Chuck Grassley before voting for Yellen. “That’s not to say however that I do not have concerns, but they’re policy concerns. I do not support some of what I believe will be some of Dr. Yellen’s political agenda.”

Other Republican members of the committee took a similar approach, both lavishing praise but also raising possible concerns ahead.

“I believe Janet Yellen is highly qualified. As it was said earlier, maybe one of the most qualified to serve,” said Ohio Senator Rob Portman. “I am encouraged by my conversation with her about fiscal sanity where she said she would be a voice for fiscal sanity within the administration at a time when we have unprecedented levels of deficit and the largest debt.”

“I have strong disagreements with Dr. Yellen on a number of her positions, particularly in the tax policy arena, but she has committed to us that she will work with us on these issues and the concerns that we have,” said Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican. “And I think a strong vote on our side to support her today is an indication that we want to engage.”

Before becoming the first woman to lead the Treasury Department, Yellen was also the first woman to serve as Federal Reserve Board Chair. She is expected to be the third member of President Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate following Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Defense Secretary retired General Lloyd Austin.

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