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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden plans to fill his White House with economic advisers more progressive than he is, but they may be blocked from their most aggressive fiscal moves if Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

Why it matters: If the GOP keeps these progressives from winning a massive stimulus, they may be graded on a different curve: simply persuading Congress to spend more money, and relying on regulatory changes to advance Biden's broader agenda.

The big picture: Most of the advisers in contention for in-house economic positions are also more progressive than most of the candidates the president-elect is considering for Treasury secretary, sources familiar with the process tell Axios.

  • Jared Bernstein, who consistently argued for more spending and regulation as Biden’s first economic adviser in the Obama White House, is a leading candidate to run the National Economic Council.
  • Ben Harris, who replaced Bernstein in the VP's office, is more centrist but still acceptable to progressives. He could head either the National Economic Council or the Office of Management and Budget, or he could end up in a sub-Cabinet position at Treasury.
  • Heather Boushey, an economist whose research has focused on inequality, is also a possibility for the NEC, as well as the Council of Economic Advisers or the Domestic Policy Council.
  • Gene Sperling, an NEC director in both the Clinton and the Obama White Houses, has moved to the left on many issues and could return for a third tour at the Council or Management and Budget, or as a senior White House adviser.
  • Lael Brainard, a current Fed governor, appears to be the leading candidate to serve as Treasury secretary, but there are other names under consideration, including former Fed chair Janet Yellen; former Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin; Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA; and Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic.

Between the lines: There could be one less in-house spot for Biden's longtime advisers if he turns to academia for the top CEA job.

  • Lisa Cook, an economics professor at Michigan State, and William Spriggs, a former economics chair at Howard University, are two potential progressive Black candidates.

Two other names mentioned on the economic front, Jake Sullivan and Brian Deese, may not pass purity tests set by progressive groups like the Revolving Door Project, Demand Progress and Sunrise Movement.

  • Sullivan, a Hillary Clinton confidant who came up as a foreign policy expert, has recently focused on domestic policy and could serve as deputy chief of staff or run the NEC or the DPC.
  • Deese, who was deputy director of OMB for Obama and could return to run it, is now head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

What they're saying: Progressive are asking themselves, "Whose conversion seems sincere?" said Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project. "Sperling is in a different place on deficits and regulation than a generation ago."

  • "Deese and Sullivan have recently worked for two politically active companies with whom progressives have deep-seated beefs, BlackRock and Uber."

President Trump showed the Biden team just how creative they can get on the stimulus side if Congress doesn’t appropriate enough money.

  • Biden is unlikely to borrow Trump’s administrative — and legally questionable — moves, like tapping FEMA funds to extend unemployment insurance or unilaterally suspending payroll taxes.
  • But Biden advisers will be forced to think big — and think differently — if he faces a hostile Senate.

Flashback: In 2010, the Obama White House jammed congressional Republicans by taking the $120 billion in tax relief they proposed to spend over two years and asked them to frontload it into a one-year payroll tax holiday.

  • Republicans took the offer and later agreed to extend the popular tax cut for another year.
  • Those kinds of negotiating tricks aren't taught in academia, a reason those with political backgrounds may get tapped.

The bottom line: Most progressive economists agree that "the president and the White House don't have many levers to pull on stimulus without Congress," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. "It's super limited."

  • But most of the potential regulatory changes to juice the economy, like waiving permitting requirements, tend to conflict with other progressive priorities, such as environmental protection.

Go deeper

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

Acting Capitol Police chief: Phone logs show Jan. 6 National Guard approval was delayed

Pittman at a congressional tribute for fallen officer Brian Sicknick. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman testified on Thursday that cellphone records show former USCP chief Steven Sund requested National Guard support from the House sergeant-at-arms as early as 12:58pm on Jan. 6, but he did not receive approval until over an hour later.

Why it matters: Sund and former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving clashed at a Senate hearing on Tuesday over a dispute in the timeline for when Capitol Police requested the National Guard during the Capitol insurrection.

Manhattan prosecutors reportedly obtain millions of pages of Trump's tax records

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Manhattan district attorney is now in possession of millions of pages of former President Trump's tax and financial records, CNN first reported, following a Supreme Court ruling that allowed prosecutors to enforce a subpoena after a lengthy legal battle.

Why it matters: Trump fought for years to keep his tax returns out of the public eye and away from prosecutors in New York, who are examining his business in a criminal investigation that was first sparked by hush-money payments made by Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election.