The US Senate voted by a large margin on Monday to confirm Janet Yellen as the first woman to head the Treasury.
Yellen is not new to the role of pioneer as she was also the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, from 2014 to 2018, and former White House Council of Economic Advisors.
Her role will be crucial in the first weeks of the new administration as she will act as a key negotiator with Congress in trying to win approval for President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion rescue package to help the US economy recover from Covid. -19 crisis.
This will convince skeptical lawmakers that the benefit of more spending outweighs concerns about the country’s rising debt levels.
“Neither the president-elect nor I are proposing this relief package without estimating the country’s debt burden,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee at its confirmation hearing last week.
“But right now, with interest rates in historical declines, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”
Earlier on Monday, Biden said that while he prefers two-party support for his stimulus plan, time is of the essence.
“If we do not invest now, we will lose so much height in terms of our employment base and our economic growth, it will be more difficult to re-establish it,” he said.
“We can afford to do it now. In fact, … we can not afford not to invest now.”
But Democrats only control the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’ final leap, so getting the package through may require Republican support.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Finance Committee, called Yellen an “exceptional economist” who is “extremely qualified” to lead the Treasury at a critical time.
And even Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, supported Yellen’s nomination, despite opposition from over a dozen members of his party.
But McConnell has steadily expressed skepticism about large aid packages and favored more limited steps.
Yellen will also play a role in enforcing trade rules and repairing relations following the multi-front trade wars waged by former President Donald Trump.
But in the most controversial relations with China, Yellen last week promised to use all available tools to address “China’s abusive injustice and illegal practices” that undermine the US economy.
She said Beijing had “bound US companies” with a range of policies, including illegal subsidies, dumping of products, theft of intellectual property and barriers to US goods.
But while Yellen agreed that “China is clearly our most important strategic competitor,” unlike Trump, she stressed that it will be important “to work with our allies” to combat the challenge.