Biden to introduce top economic advisers as Covid-19 pandemic threat worsens

Mr Joe Biden's latest nominations reflect his commitment to increasing diversity at the highest levels of the federal government. PHOTO: AFP

WILMINGTON (REUTERS) - United States President-elect Joe Biden will formally introduce his top economic policy advisers on Tuesday (Dec 1) as his administration prepares to take power amid a slowing economic recovery hampered by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Biden will appear at an event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, alongside his selections for senior roles, including his nominee for US Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.

The team's make-up reinforces Mr Biden's view that a more aggressive approach to the pandemic is required. The advisers have all expressed support for government stimulus to maximise employment, reduce economic inequality and help women and minorities, who have been disproportionately hurt by the economic downturn.

Other picks include Ms Cecilia Rouse, an economist at Princeton University, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; economists Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein as council members; and Ms Neera Tanden, chief executive of the liberal Centre for American Progress think tank, as head of the Office of Management and Budget.

The transition to a Biden administration has proceeded despite Republican President Donald Trump's false claims that he lost the election as a result of voter fraud.

On Monday, Mr Biden received his first full classified intelligence briefing since winning the Nov 3 election, after Mr Trump's refusal to concede delayed the formal transition process for weeks.

Arizona and Wisconsin, two battleground states where Mr Trump has pursued fruitless efforts to overturn the results, each certified Mr Biden's victory on Monday.

The certification of vote totals is typically a formality, but the process took on added significance amid Mr Trump's baseless allegations.

Mr Trump has pursued a series of legal challenges in numerous states, although none has thus far resulted in any meaningful gains for the president. Most of the lawsuits have been rejected by judges, who have expressed scepticism about the claim that the election results are illegitimate.

The Electoral College, which selects the presidential winner based on state-by-state results, is scheduled to meet on Dec 14.

Mr Biden, the Democratic former vice-president, will take office on Jan 20.

Firsts for women

Mr Biden's latest nominations will place several women in top economic roles, reflecting his commitment to increasing diversity at the highest levels of the federal government.

Ms Rouse would be the first black woman to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, which advises the president on economic policy, Ms Tanden would be the first woman of colour to run the OMB, and Ms Yellen would be the first female Treasury secretary.

All three would require Senate confirmation. Several Republicans, who currently hold a narrow majority in the chamber, expressed immediate opposition to Ms Tanden, a divisive figure who has detractors both on the right and the left.

Control of the Senate will be decided in a pair of run-off elections in Georgia on Jan 5.

Several aid programmes aimed at combating the pandemic's economic damage, such as expanded unemployment benefits, are set to expire this month, and a new stimulus Bill has been trapped in political limbo for months with Republicans and Democrats at odds over the size of the spending package.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 267,000 people in the US, with nationwide cases and hospitalisations reaching record highs in recent weeks.

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