Biden names top economic team to focus on recovery from Covid-19 pandemic

US President-elect Biden is expected to formally introduce the new economic team members on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

WILMINGTON, Delaware (REUTERS) - US President-elect Joe Biden named several women to his top economic policy team on Monday (Nov 30), 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 US Senate, come from liberal research organisations 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 is expected to formally introduce the new economic team members on Tuesday, the transition team said.

Yellen, 74, was head of the US 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 signalled 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.

Republican President Donald Trump has repeatedly and without evidence claimed his loss to Biden in the Nov 3 election was the result of widespread fraud, though state and federal election officials have said there is no evidence of it.

On Monday, Arizona, one of several states where the Trump campaign made last-ditch efforts to challenge Biden's win, certified its election results in favor of the Democrat.

"We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong and that's why I bragged on it so much," said Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican.

The Electoral College, which selects presidents based on state-by-state vote totals, meets on Dec 14. Biden beat Trump by 306 electors to 232, a margin that Trump described as a "landslide" when it was to his benefit in 2016.

Trump has had no significant success in a series of lawsuits challenging the election and would need to overturn the result in several states to win.

While Biden's transition to the presidency appears 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.

Economy 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, and was later the president of the Obama Foundation, which is overseeing the planning for the Democratic former president's library.

Neera Tanden, chief executive of the Center for American Progress think tank, 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 Cecilia 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 who is the co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and is focused on economic inequality, will serve on the council.

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

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