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Biden Pick for No. 2 in Treasury, moderate voice, breaks racial barrier

WASHINGTON – Speaking at a think tank in Washington in the summer of 2016, Adewale Adeyemo, international economic adviser to President Barack Obama, warned of the dangers of protectionism, explained how a growing Chinese economy was good for the world and spoke about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. , a trade deal he helped negotiate that Democrats ultimately rejected.

Four years later, such rhetoric might seem disconnected from a Democratic Party that has grown even more hawkish towards China and increasingly suspicious of sprawling international trade deals. But that was not a concern for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who this week hired Mr. Adeyemo as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, solidifying his team with another staunch member of the Obama administration who will bring center-left economic ideas, deep experience and diversity at the highest ranks of Mr. Biden.

Like many of Mr. Biden’s hires so far, Mr. Adeyemo, who goes through Wally, brings a broad political perspective with a barrier-breaking background. Mr. Adeyemo would be part of a duo of story-makers at the Treasury: he would be the first black Member of the Treasury, serving with the first female secretary, Janet L. Yellen.

And like some of Mr Biden’s picks, Mr Adeyemo’s selection comes under scrutiny from the left over his work in the private sector. In 2017, after the Trump administration took office, Mr. Adeyemo went to work for BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, as senior advisor and acting chief of staff to Larry Fink, its director. general. He left last year to become president of the Obama Foundation, where he managed day-to-day operations and carried out his strategic plan.

If confirmed, Mr. Adeyemo will climb to second place in the Treasury since his humble beginnings. Born in Nigeria, Mr. Adeyemo immigrated with his parents to the United States when he was a baby and settled in Southern California, outside Los Angeles. Her father was a teacher, her mother was a nurse. Mr Adeyemo, 39, and his younger brother and sister grew up in one bedroom in a two bedroom apartment.

Mr. Adeyemo attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he was president of the students’ association, and went on to earn a law degree from Yale. His interest in politics percolating, he worked on the presidential campaigns of John Kerry, John Edwards and Mr. Obama.

Mr. Adeyemo joined the Treasury Department in 2009, where he worked as Deputy Executive Secretary to Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. A little over a year later, he was sent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help set up the new agency. There he worked as chief of staff to Elizabeth Warren, now a senator from Massachusetts, who had the idea of ​​an office of consumption and was chosen by Mr. Obama to oversee the creation of the agency.

The ability to switch between Mr Geithner and Ms Warren was an early sign of Mr Adeyemo’s skill at straddling the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party’s decision-making machine. During Mr Adeyemo’s confirmation hearing in 2015 to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets and Development, Ms Warren gave effusive praise.

“He remembers who he grew up with and he tries every day to make this country a better country,” said Ms. Warren, who has become one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent progressives. A spokeswoman said Ms Warren would support Mr Adeyemo’s appointment as deputy secretary.

Mr. Adeyemo eventually became Deputy Chief of Staff to the Treasury, under the leadership of Jacob J. Lew. In this role, he was immersed in many issues, including sanctions and international trade. During the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, Adeyemo focused on negotiating an agreement on monetary arrangements in the foreign exchange chapter of the agreement.

Mr. Lew recalled that Mr. Adeyemo had traveled the world, from Asia to Latin America, engaging in economic shuttle diplomacy to negotiate a deal that would create greater transparency and better enforcement of the exchange rate policy in the agreement.

“He developed an approach that has frankly stood the test of time, even though the TPP has not had a US stake,” Lew said in an interview. “He became the model for how currency issues were handled in subsequent trade agreements.”

In 2015, Mr. Obama recruited Mr. Adeyemo to the White House to be his international economic adviser to the National Security Council. He has represented the President at the Group of 20 and Group of 7 summits and has led the international economic policy agenda through government agencies.

Soft and deliberate, Mr. Adeyemo’s approach will offer a stark contrast to the Trump administration’s combative tone in economic diplomacy. At the 2016 event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Adeyemo described the importance of encouraging China to liberalize its markets by arguing that it was in its own economic interest – and in the interest of the United States.

“A growing Chinese economy is an economy in which American businesses can sell goods and services,” he said. “And a growing Chinese economy is something that will help spur global growth.”

This multilateral approach to dealing with China could be a complication for Mr. Adeyemo during his confirmation hearing, as Republicans have grown accustomed to Mr. Trump’s confrontational stance.

And Mr Adeyemo’s work at BlackRock will likely raise questions from some Democrats, as progressives have already expressed their displeasure.

Robert Kuttner, founder of The American Prospect, a progressive publication, warned this week that BlackRock could stand to gain if Mr Adeyemo gets the No.2 position in the Treasury, saying he could work to prevent tighter regulatory oversight of the asset manager. .

Matt Stoller, director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project, a left-wing group that targets corporate power, suggested that BlackRock was actively working to implant officials who would make his offers into the federal government.

“BlackRock needs to be dismantled and regulated,” Mr. Stoller said. “BlackRock CEO Larry Fink knows this, so he has put Democrats hack on ice so they can step into the Biden administration and make sure that doesn’t happen.

A BlackRock spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

An aide to Biden’s transition team said Mr. Adeyemo, who had been hired to create BlackRock’s internal think tank, had no business responsibility or control over his investments or political decisions. The assistant said the experience also deepened Mr. Adeyemo’s understanding of financial markets and the role companies like BlackRock play in creating wealth for the middle class.

David S. Cohen, who served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence under the Obama administration, said Mr. Adeyemo’s familiarity with the inner workings of the Treasury and his background in domestic politics, international economics and national security would make it a strong partner for Ms. Yellen, a university economist and former central banker.

“In some ways, it’s a perfect addition to Yellen’s Treasury,” Mr. Cohen said.

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Conor Lamb, House Moderate, on Biden’s win, ‘the team’ and the future of the Democratic Party

The carefully calibrated unity of the Democratic Party lasted for about six months. After a summer when moderates and progressives came together to elect President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his victory has now given the party permission to devote time and energy to the difficult task of sorting out its ideological core .

House Democrats, reeling from unexpected losses in competitive races, wasted no time. Moderates blamed progressives for pushing policies such as “Medicare for all” and defunding the police, which are unpopular in swing neighborhoods.

But progressives, rallying to influence Mr. Biden over cabinet appointments and initial policy, have pushed back. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York pinned those losses in the House to a bad digital campaign, saying members have been “sitting ducks” for Republicans.

Conor Lamb, the 36-year-old Democrat from Pennsylvania who pushed aside a Republican challenge in a district won by President Trump in 2016, is one of those moderates who believes the left is costing Democrats in key areas. In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Lamb said he expected the new administration to rule like it campaigned: with arm’s-length progressives.

This interview has been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.

Q. What do you expect from Joe Biden’s Democratic Party? How do you expect him to come across the moderate versus progressive divisions that we see in the House?

A. I think he means what he says when he says, “I have led a Democrat, but I will serve as US President.” And what that means, I believe, is that every day, and on every issue, he’s going to work to get as many people around the table and sing from the same sheet music as possible. And sometimes it will be everyone in the Democratic caucus. Sometimes it will be people from the Democratic caucus and Republicans. I think that will change by the question, but this is a person who truly believes that our real job in Washington, DC is to work with each other, to compromise to get the best deal possible, and then to to make things progress. And I believe it too.

What went wrong for House Democrats when they were supposed to take seats?

I give you an honest account of what I hear from my own constituents which is that they are extremely frustrated with the message of defunding the police and banning fracking. And I, as a Democrat, am just as frustrated. Because these things are not only unpopular, they are completely unrealistic and they will not happen. And that amounts to false promises on the part of the people who claim them.

If a member of your family makes a living in one way or another being connected to natural gas, either on the gas pipeline itself, or you know, even in a restaurant that serves gas workers natural, it is not something to be joked about or to be laid back about. Your language.

That’s what we’re trying to say: that the rhetoric, the policies and everything – it’s gone way too far. It must be redialed. It has to be rooted in the right way, in reality, and yes, in politics. Because we need neighborhoods like mine to stay in the majority and do something for the people we care about most.

Take this problem. Joe Biden did not support the postponement of police funding. Almost every member of the Democratic Congress, even people like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have spoken out against it. What is the party supposed to do that it hasn’t?

I think we can do this much more clearly and repeatedly and show it through our actions. We need to have a unified democratic message about good law enforcement and how to protect people, while addressing the systemic racism that I think exists and the racial inequalities that absolutely exist. And when we passed the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, that’s exactly what we did.

But the people I was on the phone with when we were doing this back then weren’t the freshmen criticizing us today. It was Karen Bass and Cedric Richmond and Colin Allred – and I was listening to them. And, you know, pretty much most of our moderate Conservative Democrats all voted for this bill. We listened, we made compromises and we did something. And that’s really what this job is.

Do moderate Democrats think the Progressives or the so-called Squad have taken too much space in the national conversation?

I wouldn’t put it that way. Because it really focuses on them as individuals and their personalities. And that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to have a discussion about politics, not personality. And I want to be very clear about that, because I respect each of these MPs and how hard they worked to get elected and how hard they worked to stay elected and represent their ridings. But the point is, they and others advocate unworkable and hugely unpopular policies.

So I would just say that our point of view is more that we want to have a clearer, more specific, and more unified message about the policy itself, no matter who deserves it or who is in the limelight.

In the Democratic primary, even though the progressive candidates lost, polls showed their issues remained popular among Democrats. Even things like single-payer health insurance or things like the Green New Deal. What’s your response to this?

At the end of the day, it’s the individual candidates who have to win races and then work with their colleagues to get bills through and change people’s lives. So you can tell me all the polls you want, but you have to win the election.

And I have now gone through three very difficult elections in a Republican-leaning district, with the president personally campaigning against me. And I can tell you that people are not asking for the two policies you just mentioned. So that’s what probably distinguishes a winner from a loser in a neighborhood like mine.

On Saturday I interviewed Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and she mentioned to you and how some House moderates ran their campaigns. I wanted to quickly get a fact check: Did you all spend just $ 2,000 on Facebook the week before the election?

She has no idea how we ran our campaign, or what we spent, to be honest with you. So yes, his statement was false. But there is a deeper truth here, which is that our districts and our countryside are vastly different. You know, I stick to that.

She said the way the moderates ran their campaigns left them like “sitting ducks.” What was your reaction?

I have to be honest and say I was surprised by the whole interview the day Vice President and now President-elect Biden was called up for election for him. I just don’t think it was a day for people to shoot other members, especially in districts so different from theirs.

I respect her and how hard she works. And what she did in a very low turnout Democratic primary. But the point is that in general elections in those districts – especially in ones where President Trump himself campaigns over and over and over and attacks members in their own Republican-leaning districts, like me and Rep. Slotkin and Spanberger representative – it’s the message that counts. It’s not about knocking on the door or Facebook. It doesn’t matter which policies you stand for and which ones you don’t. And that’s all we’re trying to say.

The American people have just shown us in large numbers, in general, which side of these problems they are on. They sent us a Republican Senate and a Democratic President; we’re going to have to do things that we can compromise on.

You mentioned snipers. Are the progressives leading this or are the moderates doing it too? I think of all the anonymous quotes attacking members of the left, which she mentioned.

This is honestly a difficult question to answer because I don’t know who the anonymous are. I think we should put your name behind those kinds of comments and that’s usually what I do.

But I have to say that since you’ve talked a lot about Rep Ocasio-Cortez, she can put her name behind stuff and it’s, I guess, brave, but when it’s a damaging idea or bad policy, like if she tweeted that fracking was bad. in the midst of a presidential debate as we try to win western Pennsylvania – it doesn’t sound like a team player. And it’s honestly giving people a false and ineffective promise that makes it very difficult to win the areas where President Trump is most popular in the countryside.

You and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez are on a different side of the ideological spectrum, but on the same side of a generational divide between Democrats. Party leaders in the House have said they plan to run again. Should there be more young people among Democratic leaders?

The most important thing is that the leadership we have must listen to new and young members, give us input and help us achieve political achievement.

But what seems to happen sometimes is that when things are going well, the young members who come from these really tough districts and tough races don’t always think that the leadership takes our contribution as seriously as we would like. And I think that’s something they need to improve on, and I’d bet Rep Ocasio-Cortez would feel the same – even if it was on different issues.