Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on struggling economy

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President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced the first members of his economic team Tuesday with a focus on addressing the coronavirus-induced downturn that has plagued businesses and American workers.

Biden described his team as capable of steering the U.S. through the crisis and helping to rebuild the economy so that it’s stronger than it was before the pandemic and lifts up the middle class.

“The team that I am announcing today will play a critical role in shaping our plan for action starting on day one and move fast to revive this economy,” Biden said in prepared remarks in Wilmington, Del., before announcing six intended members of his team, including his nominee for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen.

“Our message to everybody struggling right now is this: Help is on the way,” he added.

Biden urged Congress to promptly pass a “robust package for relief,” while noting that any COVID-19 legislation passed during the lame-duck session “is likely to be, at best, just a start.” He said his transition team is working on a measure that he plans to introduce after Inauguration Day.

Pandemic-related closures have had a devastating effect on small- and medium-sized businesses and left millions of Americans out of work. Congress has failed to pass a new relief package that would provide much-needed assistance to businesses, unemployed Americans and cash-strapped state and local governments despite months of negotiations between the White House and leaders on Capitol Hill.

Yellen, who spoke immediately after Biden on Tuesday, emphasized the need for swift action to address the pandemic and recession, noting the crises have disproportionately impacted the most financially vulnerable Americans.

“It’s an American tragedy and it’s essential that we move with urgency,” Yellen said. “Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn, causing yet more devastation.”

Hours before Biden introduced his economic team, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion stimulus proposal amid growing pressure to pass COVID-19 relief before Congress recesses for the remainder of the year.

Asked by a reporter if he supported the bipartisan proposal, Biden said he had just heard about it and that he would “take a look at it.”

Members of Biden’s economic team put a clear emphasis on the working and middle class during Tuesday’s remarks.

Wally Adeyemo, Biden’s nominee for deputy Treasury secretary, said he looked forward to working with Yellen to reduce inequality, expand the middle class and ensure the American economy “works for everyone.”

Biden has received praise for selecting Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, as his Treasury nominee. Even Senate Republicans appear open to confirming her.

However, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Neera Tanden, has drawn GOP criticism for her comments about Republicans on Twitter over the years.

Some progressives have also expressed opposition to her nomination, while other Democrats view her as a more favorable pick for OMB than Bruce Reed, former chief of staff to Biden when he was vice president who served on a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction. Several prominent progressives have expressed support for Tanden, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Tanden, president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress since 2011, would need to be confirmed by the Senate. A pair of runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 will determine which party controls the chamber next year.

Neither Biden nor Tanden addressed the controversy surrounding her nomination at Tuesday’s event. Instead, they focused on Tanden’s background.

Tanden spoke of being raised by a single mother who immigrated to the United States from India and relied on social safety net programs to help her family as she worked to reach the middle class.

“I’m here today because of social programs, because of budgetary choices, because of a government that saw my mother’s dignity and gave her a chance,” Tanden said. “Now it is my profound honor to help shape those budgets and programs to keep lifting Americans up.”

In addition to Yellen, Tanden and Adeyemo, the event included Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) chairwoman nominee Cecilia Rouse and CEA member appointees Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey. Most of Biden’s picks served in the Obama administration in some capacity, much like the members of Biden’s intended national security team announced last week.

Biden has put an emphasis on diversity, with four of the six individuals announced on Tuesday being women and three of them minorities. Yellen would be the first female Treasury secretary; Rouse, an economist at Princeton University, would be the first Black woman to lead the CEA; Adeyemo would be the first Black person to serve as deputy Treasury secretary; and Tanden, who is Indian American, would be the first woman of color to oversee OMB.

In an unexpected move, Biden said Tuesday that Rouse would serve as a member of his Cabinet, elevating the position of CEA head after it had been diminished under Trump.

Biden is expected to name Brian Deese as the director of the White House National Economic Council, but Deese was not among those in attendance for Tuesday’s event. Deese, who would not need Senate confirmation, has drawn criticism from some progressives for working at BlackRock after leaving the Obama administration, but the reaction from progressives overall has been fairly tame.

Tags Brian Deese Cecilia Rouse coronavirus recession COVID-19 relief Delaware economy Elizabeth Warren Janet Yellen Joe Biden middle class Neera Tanden nominees Pandemic Sherrod Brown Wally Adeyemo working class

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