Biden says will announce Fed chair pick in 'about four days'

Mr Joe Biden's choice has been expected before Thanksgiving on Nov 25.
Mr Joe Biden's choice has been expected before Thanksgiving on Nov 25.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - United States President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday (Nov 16) to expect him to announce a nominee for Federal Reserve chair in "the next four days".

Mr Biden is weighing whether to re-appoint Mr Jerome Powell as leader of the central bank. He has also interviewed Fed governor Lael Brainard for the job, who is preferred by some progressive lawmakers and activists.

The President has yet to make a decision, according to a source.

Senate Banking Committee chairman Sherrod Brown said that he has no doubt the Senate would confirm either candidate. Banking Committee approval would be the first step in the confirmation process.

"I am certain we would confirm either of them," the Ohio Democrat said on Tuesday, adding that either could rely on broad Democratic support and might draw some GOP backing. "I am absolutely certain."

The White House is seeking input from senators to ensure either Mr Powell or Ms Brainard would get the votes needed for confirmation, a source familiar with the process said.

Mr Brown said he has a personal preference between the two Fed officials and has shared it with the White House, but he declined to disclose who it is.

"They're both clearly qualified," Mr Brown added. "I think it's likely between those two. But I don't have a read on what they're going to do. They have really put a lot of thought into this."

White House spokesman Andrew Bates declined to discuss the Fed nomination with reporters aboard Air Force One.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said she had spoken to Mr Biden about his Fed choice while she was at the White House on Monday, but would not disclose her preference publicly.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said she backs Mr Powell.

Mr Biden's choice has been expected before Thanksgiving on Nov 25, giving the Senate time to confirm the nominee before Mr Powell's term ends in February.

Mr Biden only mentioned that he would pick the nominee for chair, but Mr Brown and others have said he may move to fill more than one of the Fed's vacancies at the same time. One Fed seat has been open since the Trump administration, while the vice-chair for supervision opened when Mr Randal Quarles' term expired last month. Vice-chair Richard Clarida's term is up in January.

Mr Brown said his committee could hold a confirmation hearing as early as next month on the Fed chair nomination, although he added the panel may take more time.

"I don't think it's essential to do because the term's not up until February," he said. "We're not going to rush it. We want to make sure that everybody has a chance to speak. The hearings will be obviously very important, particularly discussions of climate and regulation."

Ohio Senator Rob Portman, meanwhile, one of just four sitting Republicans to confirm Ms Brainard for her current post, said that he urged Mr Biden directly to choose Mr Powell over Ms Brainard.

"I think she's more dovish than him, and I think for those of us concerned about the balance sheet of the Fed and inflation, he's a better pick," Mr Portman said, though he declined to say when the conversation took place.

Mr Powell has public backing from a number of Democratic and Republican senators, including a majority of Republicans on the Banking Committee and key moderate Democrat Jon Tester of Montana.

Mr Tester, who has previously advocated publicly for Mr Powell and to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, would not say if he would vote for Ms Brainard when asked by a reporter.

"I'll tell you who I would vote for and that's Mr Powell," Mr Tester said.