Biden unveils diverse economic team as challenges to economy growNovember 30, 2020
After facing criticism for the lack of diversity in his first round of hires, President-elect Joe Biden plans to announce three people of color for leading positions on his economic team.
According to two people close to Biden’s presidential transition, he is expected to name Cecilia Rouse, an African American economist at Princeton University, to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.
Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, a Nigerian-born attorney and former senior international economic adviser during the Obama administration, will serve as deputy Treasury secretary under former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who Biden plans to appoint to lead the Treasury Department.
And as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Biden plans to nominate Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and a former senior policy adviser to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Tanden is Indian American.
Biden also plans to name longtime economic aides Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein to serve on the CEA, according to people familiar with the plans. Both Boushey and Bernstein are white.
The personnel moves were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Biden has been under rising pressure to select more people of color for senior jobs in his administration. One of his most prominent allies, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), told reporters last week he was unhappy with the number of Black people in Biden’s administration. Clyburn, the highest ranking Black lawmaker in Congress, was widely credited with helping Biden win the South Carolina presidential primary, which revived his struggling campaign.
“From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration,” Clyburn told The Hill newspaper. “But there is only one Black woman so far.”
“I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces,” he added. “But so far it’s not good.”
The newly announced team will inherit a struggling U.S. economy and one of the weakest labor markets in the country’s history, with more than 20 million Americans receiving jobless benefits and an unemployment rate near 7 percent. Biden has vowed to pass major economic stimulus and relief programs and provide aid to jobless workers as well as state and local governments, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican-led Senate have been loath to move on major spending packages — leaving Biden with limited tools to address the spiraling crisis.
As the coronavirus surges, the economy is widely expected to hit another downturn as more states and localities issue new shutdown restrictions, throwing more employees out of work. At the same time, a handful of the aid programs Congress passed in the spring are set to expire at the end of the year, including expanded unemployment insurance, a national eviction moratorium and delays for student loan payments.
Without action by Congress in the next month to extend further relief, an estimated 12 million people will lose their jobless benefits at the end of the year. As many as 87 million public and private sector workers could lose access to paid sick and medical leave. The combination of less federal aid, more shutdown restrictions and spiking coronavirus cases and deaths will have a resounding effect on the entire U.S. economy, potentially reversing the slow economic recovery that had begun.
Rouse, currently the dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, previously worked on both Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and President Bill Clinton’s National Economic Council.
The CEA is less influential than the National Economic Council, which operates from within the West Wing. But it serves as the in-house economic forecasting and analysis unit for the administration and plays a significant role in formulating policy ideas. The CEA chair is also often a top spokesperson for the White House on economic issues.
Biden has not yet announced his choice for director of the NEC, who will effectively be his top economic adviser in the White House. POLITICO reported on Wednesday that Biden is leaning towards naming former senior Obama administration official and current investment executive Brian Deese to the job.
The director of the Office of Management and Budget is a huge job for any appointee — an incredibly wonky position that often operates out of the spotlight. But under the Biden administration, the OMB chief could have a much more elevated role, central to carrying out an ambitious climate agenda or health care expansion for millions of Americans through rulemaking across federal agencies.
The agency not only pulls together an annual budget proposal for Congress, it also reviews and ultimately greenlights all regulations for implementation, or proposed and final rules linger and die with the agency.
In Tanden, Biden has selected a longtime economic policy power broker in the Democratic Party. A Yale law graduate, Tanden is very close to the Clinton family. She does not come out of the classic left but is likely to be welcomed by progressives as a strong addition to Biden’s roster of top economic advisers.
As OMB chief, Tanden is not likely to worry overly much about deficit spending in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic. And she is a popular voice for Democrats on Twitter, with nearly 300,000 followers.
Adeyemo has less of a public profile, but is well known within Democratic policy circles. He served in top roles at the Treasury Department, before being named deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs and deputy director of the NEC under Obama in 2015. Adeyemo then went on to become the first president of the Obama Foundation, the former president’s non-profit organization.
Caitlin Emma contributed to this article.