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U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks in Washington, on Dec. 13, 2017.

JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced his senior economic team, including his plans to nominate the first woman to head the Treasury Department as well as several liberal economists and policy specialists who established their credentials during the previous two Democratic administrations.

In a statement, Biden said he would nominate Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, to lead the Treasury Department, and former Clinton and Obama adviser Neera Tanden to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He also named Wally Adeyemo, a former Obama administration official and the first CEO of the former president’s non-profit foundation, as his nominee for deputy treasury secretary. He also unveiled his White House economic team, consisting of economists Cecilia Rouse, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.

Biden, who has placed a premium on diversity in his selection of Cabinet nominees and key advisers, is looking to notch a few firsts with his economic team selections. Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department and Adeyemo the first Black deputy secretary. Tanden would be the first woman of colour to lead OMB and Rouse the first woman of colour to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.

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“As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever,” Biden said in a statement.

Yellen became Federal Reserve chair in 2014 when the economy was still recovering from the devastating Great Recession. In the late 1990s, she was President Bill Clinton’s top economic adviser during the Asian financial crisis. Under Biden she would lead the Treasury Department with the economy in the grip of a surging pandemic.

If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its nearly 232-year history. She would inherit an economy with still-high unemployment, escalating threats to small businesses and signs that consumers are retrenching as the pandemic restricts or discourages spending.

Tanden, the president and CEO of the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress, has been tapped to serve as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. She was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign, but she first made her mark in the Clinton orbit.

She served as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. Before that, she served as legislative director in Clinton’s Senate office and deputy campaign manager and issues director for Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. Tanden was a senior policy adviser in the Bill Clinton administration.

If confirmed, she would be the first woman of colour and the first South Asian woman to lead the OMB, the agency that oversees the federal budget.

But Senate Republicans are signalling they’ll oppose confirmation. Late Sunday a spokesman for GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tweeted that Tanden “stands zero chance of being confirmed.” And Josh Holmes, a political adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, tweeted that confirmation was likely doomed. Republicans hold the edge in the current Senate, although next year’s majority won’t be decided until Jan. 5 runoffs in two races involving GOP incumbents in Georgia.

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Brian Deese, a former senior economic adviser in the Obama administration and now the managing director and global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, is expected to be named director of the White House National Economic Council, according to a person familiar with transition plans who was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Deese worked on the auto bailout and environmental issues in the Obama White House, where he held the title of deputy director of both the NEC and the OMB

Cecilia Rouse, a labour economist and head of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, is Biden’s pick to serve as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers. She served on the CEA from 2009 to 2011, and served on the NEC from 1998 to 1999 in the Clinton administration.

Notably, she organized a letter earlier this year signed by more than 100 economists calling for more government action to mitigate the fallout for Americans caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rouse, who is Black, would be the first woman of colour to chair the CEA.

Biden also named Heather Boushey, the president and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and Jared Bernstein, who served as an economic adviser to Biden during the Obama administration, to serve on the council. Both Boushey and Bernstein advised Biden during the presidential campaign.

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