Yellen Becomes First Woman to Lead Treasury Department

After making history as the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve seven years ago, Janet Yellen broke another glass ceiling Monday when she was confirmed as the first female treasury secretary.

Janet Yellen appears on FOX Business Network in August 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate confirmed another member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet on Monday, approving Janet Yellen as treasury secretary by an 84-15 vote.

Yellen is the first woman to hold the job in American history. Considered by many to be a centrist pick, she also broke new ground in 2014 as the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve.

During a confirmation hearing last week, Yellen said she fully supported a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package proposed by Biden. The plan would send $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans and also includes money for small businesses, vaccination programs and the effort to reopen schools.

Often described as having a dovish approach to economic policy, Yellen is known for insisting on keeping interest rates near zero to boost incentive for potential homebuyers and restore market stability. That approach has continued under the Federal Reserve’s current chairman, Jerome Powell.

On Monday, New York Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lauded Yellen’s nomination and highlighted her Brooklyn roots. Yellen, a graduate of both Brown and Yale universities, had taught economics at Harvard and other prestigious colleges, Schumer said, noting her time on the Fed board was spent wrestling economic recovery from a global financial crisis.

“Few people possess the experience and expertise that Ms. Yellen would bring to the treasury, particularly during this moment of economic crisis,” Schumer said. 

Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, also voiced his support for Yellen’s confirmation Monday.

Brown said throughout her career and involvement in the American economy, Yellen had made clear the system was driven by workers. She knew the U.S. economy was built by Americans “who know the dignity of a hard day’s work,” the senator said.

“I remember in 2015, Chair Yellen came to Cleveland and toured the Alcoa plant not far from my house,” Brown said. “She showed the kind of leadership we need, the kind of leaders President Biden is putting into the top jobs managing our economy. People who will get out of Washington, who will visit every sort of community in the heart of the country.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, noted Yellen’s quick confirmation contrasts sharply with the votes of many of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks.

“Secretary [Steve] Mnuchin had to sit through a stunt where Senate Democrats literally boycotted his committee hearing,” McConnell said Monday. “He was not confirmed until mid-February. Dr. Yellen came out of committee on a unanimous vote and will be getting to work five days after the inauguration.”

McConnell said Yellen’s quick confirmation is not happening because senators from across the aisle agree with every economic view she or the Biden administration have. He said there certainly would be debate over economic policy in the months ahead, “especially if some Democrats keep trying to use this historic emergency as a pretext” to advance “permanent far-left policy changes.”

“The 50 senators on our side have great confidence in our pro-job, pro-worker vision that helped build the greatest job market in living memory,” McConnell said. “But the simple fact is that when the American people elect a president and when the president selects qualified and mainstream people for key posts, the whole nation deserves for them to be able to assemble their team.”

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