U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday reappointed Jerome Powell to a second term as chair of the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, saying that Powell has played a pivotal role in helping the United States recover from the worst of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s reappointment of Powell, 68, to one of the most important economic policy positions in the world, ends weeks of speculation in financial markets and in Washington political circles. Some progressive Democrats in Congress had pushed Biden to name Fed Governor Lael Brainard to head the Fed, but the president instead named her as vice chair.
Biden’s decision to tap Powell, a Republican and former private equity executive, to another four-year term is a rare instance in which he renamed a key official first appointed by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
At the White House, Biden said he named a Republican rather than a Democrat because “we need stability and independence at the Fed.” He said Powell has “broad bipartisan support” in a politically divided country.
The president called Powell “the right person to see us through” the recovery from the damage caused by the pandemic and the fastest increase in U.S. consumer prices in 31 years — a 6.2% annualized surge in October.
Investors mostly greeted the Powell reappointment favorably, with two of the three major U.S. stock indexes — the Dow Jones average of 30 key stocks and the broader S&P 500 — up sharply throughout trading on Monday, although the technology-heavy Nasdaq index fell.
In politically fractious Washington, Powell is expected to again win Senate confirmation. Of the 84 lawmakers who voted for him four years ago, 68 of them are still in office, equally split between Democrats and Republicans.
One Powell opponent, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said she would vote against his reappointment while supporting Brainard’s nomination. Warren cited what she says are Powell’s “failures on regulation, climate and ethics.”
Powell was first named to the Fed’s seven-member policy-making board a decade ago by then-President Barack Obama, another Democrat, before being elevated to Fed chair by Trump. Biden also has three other current or upcoming vacancies to fill on the Fed board, which broadly sets economic policy for the U.S., the world’s largest economy.
Biden said the U.S. has made “remarkable progress over the last 10 months in getting Americans back to work and getting our economy moving again,” and praised the work of Powell and Brainard. Under Powell, the Fed provided stimulus money to boost the recovery.
“As I’ve said before, we can’t just return to where we were before the pandemic, we need to build our economy back better, and I’m confident that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard’s focus on keeping inflation low, prices stable, and delivering full employment will make our economy stronger than ever before,” Biden said in a statement.
“Together, they also share my deep belief that urgent action is needed to address the economic risks posed by climate change and stay ahead of emerging risks in our financial system,” the president said.
“Fundamentally, if we want to continue to build on the economic success of this year, we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve – and I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs,” Biden said.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, herself a former Fed chair, praised Powell’s reappointment, as did several Republican senators.
“The steady leadership of Chair Powell & the Federal Reserve helped ensure our economy was able to recover from a once-in-a-generation health & economic crisis,” Yellen said. “I'm pleased our economy will continue to benefit from his stewardship, & the expertise & experience of Lael Brainard.”