Feb 14, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden picks Fed's Brainard for National Economic Council

Lael Brainard moves her blond hair off the right side of her face with her right hand. Her mouth is slightly open

Lael Brainard in January of 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden has selected Lael Brainard, currently the vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, to replace Brian Deese as the National Economic Council director, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: Brainard, who served as undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs under former President Obama before joining the Fed, will bring a PhD and a deep understanding of the domestic and global economy into White House’s inner circle.

  • Her departure from the Fed will require Biden to find a replacement who can win Senate confirmation, giving Republicans an opportunity to litigate Biden’s response to inflation and his broader economic policies.
  • Along with Jeff Zients, the newly installed chief of staff, Brainard is expected to play a key role in negotiating with congressional Republicans on how to raise the debt ceiling.

Between the lines: Brainard will also work closely with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, with whom she also served on the Fed, as well as the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration.

  • Biden picked Yellen over Brainard for the top Treasury job at the beginning of his term and then in 2021 came close to nominating her to chair the Fed. While he decided to renominate Jay Powell, he was impressed with Brainard in their one-and-one interview.

The intrigue: Brainard’s husband, Kurt Campbell, serves as Biden’s so-called Asia Czar on the National Security Council, a highly influential role where he coordinates policies across the U.S. government, as well as the international date line.

  • As NEC director, Brainard will carry the title of “Assistant to the President,” one rung higher than her husband, who is a “Deputy Assistant to the President.”

Driving the news: Biden plans to make the formal announcement as soon as Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.

  • Deese's going-away party is scheduled for Wednesday night, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Go deeper: President Biden has used the NEC to help generate new economic ideas, answer any detailed questions from Congress and broadly help sell the president's agenda.

  • The director is expected to head to the cameras to defend the president’s policies and work with lawmakers to advance legislation.
  • In the event of a potential recession, the NEC will take center stage on devising policies to help spur growth.
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