Nov 22, 2021 - Economy

Biden taps Jerome Powell for another term at the Fed

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell leaves a meeting

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Biden said today he will renominate Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell for another term — as market-watchers widely anticipated.

Why it matters: The decision caps a long stretch of uncertainty about who would steer the nation's most influential economic body. The Fed is front and center as the country faces prices rising at the fastest pace in decades.

  • Biden nominated Lael Brainard to be the vice chair of the Fed’s board of governors. She was widely reported to be in the running for Powell's job if the president wanted to replace him. 

Brainard was also seen as a top contender to get the nod for the vice chair for supervision role, the Fed’s banking cop. That position — along with two others — remain unfilled with no nominations, giving Biden a lot of room to leave a significant mark on the Fed.

  • The White House said in a statement that "the President intends to make those appointments beginning in early December, and is committed to improving the diversity in the Board’s composition."

The big picture: The Powell-led Fed played an extraordinary and unprecedented role in helping resurrect the economy from the depths of the pandemic shock. Now he's set to continue to oversee the central bank as it charts a course to pull back on that support.

  • Powell recently said the Fed would begin to slow — or taper — its massive bond purchases that have underpinned the recovery.
  • The Fed has maintained the price shock is a fleeting ("transitory") phenomenon. Powell said they are in no rush to lift interest rates from rock-bottom levels because it wants to see the labor market heal further.

What they're saying: "While there’s still more to be done, we’ve made remarkable progress over the last 10 months in getting Americans back to work and getting our economy moving again," Biden said in a statement.

  • "That success is a testament to the economic agenda I’ve pursued and to the decisive action that the Federal Reserve has taken under Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard to help steer us through the worst downturn in modern American history and put us on the path to recovery."

What to watch: Powell, who was first tapped as Fed chair by former President Donald Trump, is expected to face a tense confirmation process this time around.

  • Perhaps the most outspoken is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who called Powell "a dangerous man" for his record on financial regulation.
  • Warren ratcheted up pressure on Powell after a rare scandal hit the Fed. Two now-former officials came under fire after financial disclosures show they owned — and in one case, actively traded — assets sensitive to the monetary policy they helped shape.
  • The Fed has since overhauled its trading rules. Officials and senior staff can no longer own individual stocks or actively trade.

The bottom line: Biden's decision is in step with a long tradition of giving Fed chiefs appointed by their predecessor a second term.

  • Trump — who replaced then-Fed chair Janet Yellen — was a rare exception.
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