Senate

Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary

Senate Republicans are signaling an openness to helping confirm Janet Yellen to be President-elect Joe Biden's Treasury Secretary. 

Though GOP senators stopped short of predicting she would be confirmed, they are praising Yellen's qualifications - a stark contrast to other members of Biden's economics team. 

"I believe that she would get a favorable view," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), while noting that he doesn't announce his position typically until after Finance Committee hearings are over and noted that they would look at tax documents. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that he might have philosophical differences with Yellen but that he believed she was qualified. 

"I think she's fine. I don't have any problems with her," Cornyn said, "My attitude is that absent conflicts of interest or other, you know, lack of temperament and uber partisanship that beyond those that the vice president should get the people that he wants." 

Asked about supporting her for Treasury secretary, he added: "I have heard of no reason why I would not." 

Noting Grassley's comments, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Yellen would get a "fair process," adding "she's obviously very experienced." 

"I can think of worse nominations they could have made," Thune said. 

Biden formally announced Yellen as his pick to serve as Treasury secretary on Monday. 

Yellen, who previously chaired the Federal Reserve Board, is widely respected on both sides of the aisle. If she's confirmed she'll be the first person to chair the Fed, lead the Treasury Department and serve as chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 

Which party controls the Senate next year is still in limbo. If Democrats are able to win two Georgia runoffs in January, they would force a 50-50 tie, meaning they could confirm Biden's nominees without GOP support. 

But if Republicans hold a 51 or 52 seat majority, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have ball control of the floor schedule and Yellen will need GOP support to be confirmed. 

She won the support of nearly a dozen GOP senators in 2014 for her Federal Reserve nomination. But she could pick up new GOP support, with Grasley, who voted against her, noting that vote wasn't predictive of how he will come down on her forthcoming Treasury nomination. 

Yellen is likely to face questions about emergency lending facilities created under the March coronavirus bill.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is expected to the next Banking Chairman if Republicans control the chamber, said in a statement about Yellen's nomination that he would raise the issue with her, while noting that he had "no doubts about her integrity or technical expertise." 

Any disagreements, GOP senators stressed, would focus on policy and not Yellen's personality. 

"I'll walk in with an open mind. I do think we're going to have some serious questions for her about her definition of full employment versus what we're showing right now, but ... the questions that we'll have will be matters of policy. And I think as long as she's prepared to answer those, I'll keep an open mind," said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). 

Rounds added that he believed Biden has a "tie vote" when it comes to Cabinet picks, noting that without significant concerns, "I can still go with the president on what his choice is." 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added that he would give her nomination a "thorough review," while nothing that Yellen is "obviously a very competent individual."

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