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Biden picks diverse economic team to focus on pandemic recovery

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(C) Reuters. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden delivers pre-Thanksgiving speech at transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware

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By Jarrett Renshaw

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden named several women to his top economic policy team on Monday, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary nominee, setting the stage for diversity and a focus on recovery from the pandemic.

The advisers, several of whom would need to be approved by the U.S. Senate, come from liberal research organizations and worked in previous Democratic administrations. Their aim will be to set policies that can help people and businesses recover from the damage done by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 266,000 people in the United States and cost millions of jobs.

“This team looks like America and brings seriousness of purpose, the highest degree of competency, and unwavering belief in the promise of America,” Biden said in a statement. “They will be ready on day one to get to work for all Americans.”

Biden was expected to formally introduce the new economic team members on Tuesday, the transition team said.

Yellen, 74, was head of the U.S. central bank from 2014 to 2018 and had served as the chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

On Twitter, Yellen underscored the challenges facing the United States: “To recover, we must restore the American dream — a society where each person can rise to their potential and dream even bigger for their children. As Treasury Secretary, I will work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all.”

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, welcomed Yellen’s nomination. “It will be great to have a strong, tried and tested, exceptionally talented woman at Treasury!”

PUSH FOR EARLY YELLEN HEARING

Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the chamber should hold Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Jan. 20 inauguration, as it did for current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“When millions of workers are unemployed through no fault of their own and sectors of the economy are struggling mightily, there is no excuse for delay,” Wyden said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who like many top Republicans in that chamber has not yet acknowledged Biden as president-elect, did not respond to questions about pre-inauguration hearings. His colleagues have signaled that Biden’s appointees may face a rough road to confirmation.

Control of the Senate – and the power to confirm or block Biden’s Cabinet appointees – will be determined by a pair of runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.

While Biden’s transition to the presidency appeared to be hitting its stride, he himself was hobbling after fracturing his foot while playing with his dog on Saturday and will wear a protective boot for several weeks, his doctors said.

Republican President Donald Trump, consistent with his penchant for breaking norms, has refused to concede defeat in the Nov. 3 election to Biden. Trump has said without providing evidence that the vote was fraudulent, claims that state and federal election officials have dismissed.

LIBERAL PICKS

Biden said he would nominate Wally Adeyemo as Yellen’s deputy at Treasury. Adeyemo had been a deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, then was the president of the Obama Foundation, which is overseeing the planning for the Democratic former president’s library.

Neera Tanden, chief executive of the progressive Center for American Progress, would head the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden helped the Obama administration create the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare overhaul popularly known as Obamacare. She would be the first woman of color to lead the OMB if she is confirmed.

Biden selected Cecelia Rouse, an economist who is dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. She was a member of the council under Obama from 2009 to 2011.

Heather Boushey, an economist focused on economic inequality and the president, chief executive and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, will serve on the council.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were also set to receive their first classified presidential daily intelligence briefing on Monday, which the Trump administration had previously refused to provide.

Much of Trump’s post-election anger has been trained on fellow Republicans in Georgia – Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp – after Biden narrowly won the state.

On Monday, Raffensperger said election authorities have opened investigations over allegations that some progressive groups had been encouraging people who lived outside Georgia to register to vote in advance of the two Senate runoff races there next month.

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