Janet Yellen’s history-making move to head the U.S. Treasury Department took a key step forward Friday morning after she easily cleared an important Senate vote. Along with the raft of experience she brings with her, the appointment would make Yellen the first woman ever to hold the position.
She previously was the first female to lead the Federal Reserve. The upper chamber’s finance committee approved of President Joe Biden’s move to name Yellen as Treasury secretary, sending the nomination through by a 26-0 vote vote.
“We are proud that we have now the first woman to be Treasury secretary of the United States,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). “I really hope that she can lead a new day at Treasury to focus on Main Street issues of the workforce, workforce training, and the important aspects of getting the American economy and getting people back to work.”
Yellen still has one more bridge to cross, getting full confirmation before the entire Senate. Indications are that Yellen’s name will move to the Senate floor before the close of business Friday. The vote came with little debate or disagreement, similar to her confirmation hearing earlier in the week. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) noted that Yellen is “in effect an NBA All-Star when it comes to clearing the Senate nomination process.”
Indeed, Yellen also navigated the process when she twice was named to the Fed’s Board of Governors. Yellen also was the first female to head the Council of Economic Advisers under former President Bill Clinton. Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the fast-tracking of Yellen’s appointment was part of a Republican effort to tame some of the partisan rancor that permeated Washington during former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
“Unfortunately, I can’t say that like treatment was afforded to nominees of the prior administration,” Grassley said. He added that the treatment of Yellen’s nomination “signals an interest by me and I know all of my Republican colleagues in working cooperatively and in a bipartisan way … We’re not interested in cancerous cultural wars that serve only to divide the nation.”
Should she gain confirmation, it would put her in a critical position to execute President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. The new president already finds himself locked in a congressional tussle over his proposed $1.9 trillion spending plan. Indications are that approval could be several weeks away, and Biden is unlikely to get the full price tag. Part of Yellen’s job will be to shepherd the proposal through Congress, where she is likely to face substantial resistance.