Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Janet Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary

Picture of Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday.

Why it matters: Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

  • Yellen previously served as the first female chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton and the first female chair of the Federal Reserve under President Obama.
  • Her confirmation as Treasury secretary makes her the first person to have held all three economic power positions in the federal government.

The big picture: Yellen told senators during her confirmation hearings that her immediate focus would be pandemic relief. With her confirmation, she can immediately start negotiating and working with Congress to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

  • "The damage has been sweeping, and as the President-elect said last Thursday, our response must be, too," Yellen said last week.
  • Yellen also endorsed Biden's tax reform plan in her testimony, but she said the administration's top legislative priority would be economic stimulus, with infrastructure not too far behind.

Key quotes from Yellen's testimony:

  • “The focus right now is on providing relief and on helping families keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and not on raising taxes."
  • “Neither the president-elect nor I propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big."
  • “Over the next few months, we are going to need more aid to distribute the vaccine, to reopen schools, to help states keep firefighters and teachers on the job.”
  • “To avoid doing what we need to do now to address the pandemic and the economic damage that it’s causing would likely leave us in a worse place economically and with respect to our debt situation than doing what’s necessary.”

Go deeper: Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Go deeper