Brainard Interviewed by Biden for Fed Chair as Search Heats Up
(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard was interviewed for the top job at the U.S. central bank when she visited the White House last week, according to people familiar with the discussions, signaling that Chair Jerome Powell has a serious rival as President Joe Biden considers who will lead the Fed for the next four years.
Powell and Brainard are the only people who have publicly surfaced as being in the running for chair. Powell’s current term in that post expires in February and Biden said on Nov. 2 that he’d make a decision “fairly quickly.” Bloomberg News has previously reported that Brainard was also under consideration for the position of Fed vice chair for supervision.
The White House and Fed both declined to comment.
Another person familiar with Brainard’s meeting with the president said it went very well and lasted about 90 minutes. The person said the Fed chairmanship was not assured for Powell.
Treasuries advanced after the report, sending yields down. Ten-year yields hit their lowest in more than six weeks and were at 1.43% as of 2:04 p.m. in New York.
A decision in favor of Brainard would suggest “dollar negative/yields lower,” Elsa Lignos, global head of foreign-exchange strategy at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note. Even so, “the knee-jerk reaction may exaggerate the impact of the chair,” she said.
Biden’s scope to reshape the leadership of the Fed widened further on Monday when Governor Randal Quarles announced he would step down before the end of the year. Quarles’ tenure as vice chair for supervision expired in October, but he could have stayed on as a governor until 2032 and his exit hands Biden another slot to fill.
In addition to the seat vacated by Quarles, Vice Chair Richard Clarida’s term as a governor expires at the end of January and there is an open position on the seven-seat board.
A large majority of economists polled by Bloomberg News expect Biden will renominate Powell.
But the White House has raised the possibility with some Senate Banking Committee members that Powell might not be reappointed, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Discussing the chairmanship with Brainard could signify that the Biden team is weighing how a break with Powell might help advance their goals for the central bank. Brainard and Powell work closely together on multiple issues and are viewed as holding similar views on monetary policy, but she’s favored a tougher stance on big banks.
If he chose Brainard, Biden would be nominating someone who would excite Democrats in Congress but put Republicans and large banks on edge -- setting up a tougher confirmation battle in the Senate, where Democrats command only 50 of the 100 seats. Still, Vice President Kamala Harris would be able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, Brainard is currently the only Democrat serving on the Fed Board, and as a governor she leads some of the Fed’s most critical initiatives. She is governor overseeing financial stability surveillance at the Fed, and payments -- an area where the central bank is now innovating with the development of an instant transaction system and consideration of a digital currency.
With a Ph.D. from Harvard University and having spent part of her career in the Treasury, Brainard is viewed as a highly competent and experienced macroeconomist. She also co-authored new language on the Fed’s longer-run strategy that redefined the full employment mandate to a broad and inclusive goal.
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