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Senate Advances Fed Nominee Lisa Cook to Final Confirmation Vote

The Senate moved closer Tuesday to confirming one of President Biden’s nominees to the Federal Reserve.

Lawmakers voted 50-49 in favor of ending debate on the nomination of

Lisa Cook,

an economist and professor of international relations at Michigan State University. The vote could allow them to proceed later Tuesday to confirm her to the central bank’s seven-member board of governors.

Ms. Cook would be the first Black woman to serve on the Fed’s board in its 108-year history. She previously served as an economist on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration. Her research has focused on policies that promote broad economic opportunity, particularly for racial minorities and women.

Lawmakers are likely to confirm Philip Jefferson as a Federal Reserve governor.



Photo:

Ken Cedeno/Bloomberg News

Absences of elected officials related to Covid-19 cases delayed her confirmation two weeks ago because no Republicans supported Ms. Cook and two Democrats were unable to vote. On Tuesday, she received backing from all 50 senators who caucus with Democrats, while 49 Republicans opposed her confirmation; one Republican didn’t vote.

Some Republicans suggested at Ms. Cook’s February confirmation hearing that she lacked sufficient experience in macroeconomics and monetary policy, a claim she countered by highlighting her research experience and work at the Treasury Department and White House. Ms. Cook would fill a term that runs through January 2024.

Ms. Cook’s confirmation to fill one of three vacancies on the Fed’s board could lead Democratic leaders in the Senate to bring up two other Fed nominations later this week, including Fed Chairman

Jerome Powell,

who has been serving in an acting capacity since his four-year term expired in February and whom Mr. Biden has tapped for a second term.

Lawmakers are also likely to confirm

Philip Jefferson

as a governor. Not including Ms. Cook, he would be the fourth Black governor and the first since 2006.

Those nominations would allow Mr. Biden to put his stamp on the central bank as officials are focused on raising interest rates to cool down demand and slow economic growth and inflation.

“While I’ll never interfere with the Fed’s judgments, decisions, or tell them what they have to do—they’re independent; they’re independent—I believe that inflation is our top economic challenge right now, and I think they do too,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday.

The Senate last month confirmed

Lael Brainard,

a Fed governor, to serve as the central bank’s vice chairwoman.

Mr. Biden has also nominated

Michael Barr,

a law professor who served as a top Treasury Department official in the Obama administration, to serve as the Fed’s vice chair of supervision.

The Fed last week approved an increase of a half-percentage point in its policy rate, to a range between 0.75% and 1%, and Mr. Powell signaled similar moves were likely to follow at policy meetings in June and again in July.

Some analysts have speculated that the new governors might favor less-aggressive rate increases, but they are unlikely to slow the Fed from advancing a faster pace of tightening as long as inflation is running well above the central bank’s 2% target. Ms. Cook and Mr. Jefferson said at their Senate appearances in February that tackling high inflation should be a central-bank priority.

The Fed’s governors are traditionally the most consensus-oriented members of an already consensus-oriented rate-setting committee. “The new additions will likely adapt more to the existing institution rather than vice versa,” said

Tim Duy,

chief U.S. economist at the research firm SGH Macro Advisors.

If inflation shows signs of slowing to an annual rate below 3%, the central bank would face a more spirited debate over how and when to moderate the pace of rate increases.

Write to Nick Timiraos at [email protected]

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