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Video: Yellen is sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury

TimesVideoYellen Sworn In As Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen made history Tuesday, having been sworn in as the first woman to serve as Treasury Secretary, according to Reuters.

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Janet Yellen, the first woman to be Secretary of the Treasury, is sworn in by the first woman to be Vice President.

Janet L. Yellen was sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury Tuesday by Vice President Kamala Harris, a historic moment as the two women are the first to assume two of the most powerful positions in the US government.

Ms. Yellen is the country’s 78th Secretary of the Treasury and the first woman to assume this role in the institution’s 232-year history. She is also the first woman to hold the three main economic posts in government, having served as chair of the Federal Reserve and the Council of Economic Advisers.

She is taking office at a time of economic crisis, with millions still out of work and the recovery is slowing as the virus persists. Ms Yellen will quickly be pushed into tense negotiations over how to design and adopt a strong stimulus package to help revive an economy that has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Standing outside the White House, Ms Yellen was sworn in with her husband, economist George Akerlof, and her son by her side. At the end of the ceremony, Ms Harris said: “Congratulations, Madam Secretary”. To which Ms Yellen replied: “Thank you, Madam Vice-President.”

As a sign of the task at hand, the Treasury Department has quickly added staff and advisers in recent days. Ms Yellen was confirmed by a bipartisan vote on Monday, but her senior deputy Wally Adeyemo and other senior officials who will oversee the department’s international affairs, sanctions and national finance divisions are not yet in place and will require confirmation. of the Senate.

The White House and congressional lawmakers have started the busy process of negotiating the $ 1.9 trillion relief bill proposed by President Biden. Ms Yellen, labor economist and former Federal Reserve chairwoman, will now take a central role in explaining why the economy needs more tax support.

At her confirmation hearing last week, Ms. Yellen told senators it was time to “act big” and that it would be financially responsible in the long run by creating a healthier economy.

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Video: Senate confirms Yellen as Treasury secretary

new video loaded: Senate confirms Yellen as Treasury secretary

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Senate confirms Yellen as Treasury secretary

Janet L. Yellen became the first woman to be Secretary of the Treasury, by a vote of 84-15. Her confirmation came as the Biden administration works to revive an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course, Janet Yellen is best known for its chairman, chairman, for her tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve, overseeing a period of falling unemployment and steady economic recovery after the global financial crisis. Few have the experience and expertise that Ms. Yellen would bring to the Treasury, especially at this time of economic crisis. “Dr. Yellen left the committee unanimously and will get to work five days after the inauguration. It is certainly not because the economic policy views of Dr. Yellen or President Biden have unanimous support here in the Senate. I think we will not miss some lively political discussions with Mr Yellen in the months to come. But the simple fact is that when the American people elect a president, and the president selects qualified and ordinary people for key positions, the whole nation deserves for them to be able to put together their team. “Madam President, it is a pleasure tonight to point out that Janet Yellen, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, will be the next Secretary of the Treasury. The Senate can make a particularly important economic judgment. Confirm Janet Yellen a fifth time. “” The yeses are 84, the nays are 15, and the confirmation is confirmed. The appointment is confirmed. “

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Senate confirms Yellen as Treasury secretary as stimulus talks loom

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Monday confirmed Janet L. Yellen, labor economist and former Federal Reserve chairwoman, as Treasury secretary, setting up a key lieutenant for President Biden at a perilous economic time, as the new administration is trying to revive an economy that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

By a vote of 84-15, the Senate confirmed Ms Yellen, making her the first woman to hold the highest office in the Treasury in her 232-year history. Her quick bipartisan confirmation underscored the support she has from Republicans and Democrats given her previous stint as Fed chair from 2014 to 2018.

Ms. Yellen now faces a formidable new challenge. As Secretary of the Treasury, she will be responsible for helping Mr Biden prepare the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package he has proposed, lead it through Congress and – if approved. – overseeing the deployment of trillions of dollars in relief funds.

The scale of the task became clear over the weekend, as a bipartisan group of senators virtually met with senior White House officials on Sunday and expressed doubt that such a package was needed.

Lawmakers on both sides have raised the possibility of scaling back some elements of the proposal, including eligibility for a series of suggested checks of $ 1,400 to individuals and ensuring a more targeted distribution of the additional aid, according to several people close to the discussion. They also asked the White House to provide data that would justify the proposed spending, which includes $ 350 billion in state and local aid and $ 130 billion to reopen schools closed by the pandemic.

Now Ms Yellen will be pushed into the middle of the talks tasked with convincing many Republicans and some Democrats that the economy needs another multibillion-dollar spending program. In her confirmation hearing and in her written responses to lawmakers, Ms. Yellen echoed Mr. Biden’s view that Congress must “ act big ” to prevent the economy from healing in the long run and has defended the use of the borrowed money to finance another aid program, claiming not to do so. would leave workers and families worse off.

“The relief bill at the end of last year was just a down payment to get us through the next few months,” Ms. Yellen said. “We have a long way to go before our economy recovers completely.”

Ms. Yellen also argued that “short-term budget support is not incompatible with long-term fiscal sustainability,” explaining that a healthier economy would ultimately generate more revenue for the government.

The Biden administration has said it hopes a package can gain bipartisan support in Congress. However, Democrats have signaled a willingness to turn to a budget mechanism known as reconciliation that would allow them to pass legislation by a simple majority and bypass the usual 60 vote threshold required.

David Wessel, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, where Yellen recently worked, said she will likely play a key role in working with Congress given her credibility with Republicans and progressive Democrats. He suggested that, because of Mr Biden’s long history in the Senate, Ms Yellen might be less involved in haggling with lawmakers and deployed to make economic arguments for certain policies.

“I think they will use it as an asset when they need an expert,” Wessel said. “Especially if some people need to be convinced of something.”

While she won the support of many Republicans, several voted against her confirmation, including Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska. Mr. Sullivan told the Senate that he voted against Ms. Yellen because she refused to commit to “all of the above” energy policy, including natural gas and oil. Ms. Yellen has made tackling climate change and creating clean energy incentives a priority at the Treasury.

“In fact, I found it shocking,” said Mr Sullivan, pointing out that he made the decision to vote against Ms Yellen’s confirmation reluctantly given her strong qualifications.

In addition to negotiating with lawmakers, Ms. Yellen will have the responsibility of being America’s top economic diplomat at a time of frayed global tensions. Ms. Yellen will have to try to mend U.S. economic relations around the world, including with allies like Canada, Mexico and the European Union, which have become strained under President Donald J. Trump.

These relations will be crucial given the Biden administration’s plan to try to combat what Ms. Yellen called China’s “illegal, unfair and abusive” economic practices by bringing together allies to pressure Beijing.

During her confirmation hearing, Yellen said China “engages in practices that give it an unfair technological advantage” and said the administration is ready to use “the full range of tools” of states. United to remedy it. One of his first challenges will be to review the trade deal Mr. Trump struck with Beijing, including China’s failure to meet its commitments, and determine whether the United States should maintain the tariffs. over 360 billion dollars of Chinese products.

Longer term, Ms Yellen plans to help implement Mr Biden’s tax proposals, which include higher corporate taxes and tax increases for the wealthy.

Ms. Yellen plans to make other big changes to the Treasury Department’s mission, including using its powers to help assess the economic risks of climate change and create incentives to support clean energy technologies. It will also focus on promoting policies that reduce racial inequalities.

“It is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Treasury to strengthen the United States economy, foster widespread economic prosperity, and promote an economic agenda that leads to long-term economic growth,” Ms. Yellen said in a written response to lawmakers published Thursday.

Ms Yellen will be under pressure to quickly staff a Treasury department that had been depleted under her predecessor, Steven Mnuchin. Her deputy, Wally Adeyemo, will need confirmation from the Senate and Ms Yellen will need to select under-secretaries to be in charge of international affairs, sanctions and national finance.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department announced a chief of staff, Didem Nisanci, and a team of senior advisers, many of whom served in the Obama administration, to work with Ms. Yellen. On Monday, the Treasury announced a new hiring list, including the appointment of Mark J. Mazur, a former senior Treasury official under the Obama administration, as deputy assistant secretary for tax policy in the legislative affairs office.

Emily cochrane contribution to reports.

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Biden’s Treasury will seek to put Harriet Tubman on the $ 20 bill, an effort the Trump administration has halted.

President Biden’s Treasury Department is exploring ways to speed up process of adding Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the foreground of the $ 20 bill after the Trump administration cleared the Obama-era initiative to lapse White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

The decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Ms Tubman as the face of the $ 20 bill was made in 2016 by then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. President Donald J. Trump opposed the idea, and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stopped working on this part of the currency overhaul, arguing that adding new security features to the money was a more urgent priority. Mr Mnuchin said the notes with the new images could not be put into circulation until 2028 and that a future Treasury Secretary would make the call if Jackson was to be replaced.

The Treasury Department, which Biden has appointed as head of Janet L. Yellen, plans to accelerate that timeline.

“The Treasury Department is taking action to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $ 20 bills,” Ms. Psaki said. “It is important that our money reflects the history and diversity of our country.”

Mr. Trump claimed to be an Andrew Jackson fan, a populist colleague, and was a staunch opponent of altering historical images and statues.

Mr Mnuchin’s decision to slow down change sparked a reaction from some Democrats in Congress and sparked an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General into whether the process faced inappropriate political interference. The investigation did not reveal any wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Mnuchin.

According to Lew’s plan, the new design was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 to mark the centenary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Preliminary designs for the memo obtained by the New York Times revealed that – before Mr. Trump took office – concept work on a Tubman bill on the front and a Jackson statue on the back was already in production. Classes.

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Video: Watch Live: Janet Yellen Senate Hearing on Treasury Secretary Appointment

TimesVideoWatch Live: Senate Hearing of Janet Yellen on Appointment as Secretary of the Treasury Former Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen testifies at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on her appointment as Secretary of the Treasury Trésor, By Reuters.

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Yellen is preparing big changes for the Treasury

WASHINGTON – Two years ago, Janet L. Yellen co-signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging her not to go ahead with plans to ease oversight of large financial firms, warning that this could threaten the stability of the US financial system.

Ms. Yellen’s plea, who was joined by Ben Bernanke, another former Fed chairman, and former Treasury secretaries Jacob J. Lew and Timothy F. Geithner, has gone unheeded. Under Mr. Mnuchin’s leadership, the Financial Stability Supervisory Board continued its plans to stop labeling large non-bank financial institutions like insurers and asset managers as a threat to the financial system, destroying a key pillar of the post-financial crisis regulatory era. .

Now Ms Yellen, who was appointed by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as Secretary of the Treasury, is set to roll back some of the Trump administration’s regulatory cuts if she gets Senate confirmation. .

Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday is expected to focus largely on Ms. Yellen’s plans to revive an economy plagued by a pandemic. But she will also be under pressure to show Democrats and progressive groups that she is ready to end what they see as Mr Mnuchin’s darling on Wall Street.

In recent weeks, Ms Yellen and Wally Adeyemo, Mr Biden’s candidate for Deputy Treasury Secretary, have taken a virtual listening tour of industry groups in Washington. According to people who attended these sessions, both emphasized the need to create “equitable growth”, using the tools of the Treasury Department to tackle climate change and rebuild regulatory institutions like the FSOC.

“The focus is on workers, racial justice and inequality, and that’s a good place to start,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group that met Ms. Yellen this month. “But reversing the things the current Treasury Department has done is not enough.”

Americans for Financial Reform, a left-wing organization that has spent the past four years largely shut out of the Treasury Department, wants Ms Yellen to give new direction to the FSOC, which has the power to subject large financial firms to greater scrutiny. strict. . It was created by the Dodd Frank Act of 2010 to prevent a repeat of what happened on the eve of the financial crisis, when companies like insurance giant AIG made risky bets out of reach. regulators and then had to be bailed out by taxpayers. .

Its power was defeated under the Trump administration, which freed AIG and three other financial firms from tighter scrutiny.

Americans for Financial Reform urged Ms Yellen and transition officials to harness the power of the FSOC to designate climate change as a “systemic risk” and create tools to limit the leverage of hedge funds, which are only lightly regulated.

Ms. Yellen probably has a new regulatory approach in mind. She called last year for a “new Dodd-Frank,” arguing at a Brookings Institution event that existing laws were insufficient to deal with the “shadow” banking problems that emerged when the pandemic hit. caused serious market unrest.

The former Fed chairman has also shown that she is prepared to punish banks for wrongdoing when warranted. In 2018, on Ms Yellen’s last day of work, the Fed asked Wells Fargo to replace four members of its 16-person board for failing to properly oversee the bank amid a fraud scandal.

But Ms Yellen’s experience at the Federal Reserve and her understanding of the banking system have allayed the concerns of some in the financial industry who might otherwise be wary that a new Democratic administration will quickly roll out onerous new rules. In meetings with financial services groups, Yellen said helping to shape and oversee the Biden administration’s economic relief efforts would initially be her top priority.

“She knows the banking system very well; she knows the strength and role of big banks, including the positive role they played over the past year, ”said Kevin Fromer, Managing Director of the Financial Services Forum, a lobby group that also met with Ms. Yellen. month.

Ms Yellen will have to recuse herself from treasury cases involving certain financial institutions following an ethics deal she signed during the disclosure of paid speeches she gave to large corporations and Wall Street banks Since leaving the Federal Reserve in a 2018 disclosure, which was released on New Years Eve, Ms. Yellen has earned more than $ 7 million in speech fees from companies such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Citadel.

Jeff Hauser, the revolving door project manager, called on Ms Yellen to publish the content of her speeches. But he said they were less troubling than some of the advisory work Mr. Biden’s other candidates have done in recent years for companies like Blackstone, a giant asset manager led by Stephen Schwarzman, and the company. Palantir data mining.

Biden’s transition team declined to release videos or transcripts of the speeches, noting they typically participate in unscripted discussions about the economy.

“Yellen did not make any prepared remarks during his speeches; most were casual conversations where she answered questions from a moderator and some were reporters, ”said Sean Savett, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition. “She has already signed ethics agreements governing her relationship with these entities and will of course comply with all appropriate challenges.”

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee might ask Ms Yellen about speaking fees, but Democrats are unlikely to press her on the issue.

“This is the worst economic crisis in 100 years, and no one is better qualified than Secretary-designate Yellen to lead an economic recovery,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who will become chairman of the committee. finances when Democrats take control of the Senate. “She deserves a lot of the credit for the longest economic expansion in our history, which lasted until the pandemic struck.”

The confirmation process should be relatively smooth. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, currently the Republican Chairman of the Finance Committee, has spoken positively about Ms Yellen since Mr Biden selected her for the job.

Mr. Grassley said Friday that he had spoken to Ms Yellen and told her he had stressed the importance of cooperation with congressional oversight, and also expressed concern that tax increases and tighter regulations would slow the recovery economic.

In 2014, the Senate confirmed Ms. Yellen as President of the Fed by 56 votes to 26.

While Ms. Yellen, an economist by training, has an in-depth knowledge of monetary policy, the Treasury Department’s portfolio is vast. She will likely be faced with questions about America’s economic relationship with China, her stance on sanctions policy with respect to Iran, and her thoughts on fiscal policy. She might even be faced with questions about the thorny topics the Treasury deals with, like whether Harriet Tubman should be the face of the $ 20 bill, an Obama administration initiative that Mr. Mnuchin ditched.

Prior to Ms. Yellen’s hearing, several groups indicated that they were excited about a change in tone and staffing at the Treasury. Mr. Mnuchin managed the department with a small staff and was very receptive to executives from large banks and corporations.

Luz Urrutia, managing director of the Accion Opportunity Fund and the Opportunity Fund, said she left hopeful after meeting with Ms. Yellen last month about community development finance institutions. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding for grant programs from the CDFI Fund, which the Treasury oversees. Ms. Yellen told the group that she wanted to expand the lending capacity of CDFIs so that they can better serve minority communities.

“They didn’t think CDFIs provided the level of impact and the capacity to serve these communities,” Ms. Urrutia said of the Trump administration. “This is a glaring difference between Yellen and the current administration.”

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The treasury will start sending the $ 600 stimulus checks.

As Congress continues to wrangle over whether to increase the amount of stimulus payments to $ 2,000, the Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that it will begin depositing $ 600 checks into U.S. bank accounts as of Tuesday. evening.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a tweet said the government had started the process to funnel money to individuals through direct deposit payments, while paper checks would begin mailing on Wednesday.

The $ 600 checks are part of the $ 900 billion stimulus bill President Trump enacted on Sunday.

The money is expected to flow faster than the first set of $ 1,200 checks approved by lawmakers in March, because the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury already have the information they need – including who is eligible for a payment and how they want it. their money is delivered.

Adults with an adjusted gross income of up to $ 75,000 per year on their 2019 tax return will receive a payment of $ 600. A couple (or someone whose spouse died in 2020) earning up to $ 150,000 per year will receive double that amount. There is also a payment of $ 600 for each child for families who meet these income requirements.

[Read more about the stimulus checks and how to receive them.]

The Treasury Department said the payments would be distributed automatically “with no action required to eligible people.” If lawmakers agree to increase the size of the checks, the Treasury said the money issued “will be topped up as quickly as possible.”

Individuals can check the status of their “later this week” payments on the IRS.gov/GetMyPayment website.

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Senior Treasury Department leaders targeted by hacking

But on Monday, there was no public statement attributing the hacking to Russia, perhaps reflecting Mr. Trump’s reluctance to confront Moscow on the issue and the doubts he expressed about the seriousness of the hack. attack.

The meeting, according to a senior administration official, was intended to “take stock of the intelligence, investigation and measures taken to remedy” the attack. There was no preparation to impose a cost on the attacker. Mr. Trump did not attend the meeting.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his new chief of staff Ron Klain have said in recent days that the response once Mr Biden is in office will go beyond sanctions to disable the attacker’s abilities. . But he will likely find the government’s response options limited due to fear of escalation.

The list of participants in the meeting was remarkable because it provided an indication of which parts of government might have been affected. White House officials said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette were in attendance. All of these agencies have been previously identified by news agencies as targets of hacking.

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, attended the meeting; as are Gina Haspel, Director of the CIA, and General Paul M. Nakasone, Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of the United States Cyber ​​Command. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was the first senior administration official to recognize that Russia was the most likely source of the attack before it was undermined by Mr. Trump, has not attended. His deputy, Stephen E. Biegun, replaced him.

General Nakasone, a seasoned cyber warrior responsible for defending national security systems, has been silent since the hack came to light. At the NSA and Cyber ​​Command, officials said, there was an extraordinary shame that a private company, FireEye, was the first to alert the government that it had been hacked.

According to details released by Mr Wyden, after Russian hackers used the SolarWinds software update to break into Treasury systems, they performed a complex step in Microsoft’s Office 365 system to create a “token. »Encrypted that identifies a computer on the larger network.

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TimesVideoWatch Live: Mnuchin testifies before Congress Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will testify before the Congressional Oversight Committee for the first time on his decision to end pandemic relief programs.

TimesVideoWatch Live: Mnuchin Testifies Before CongressSteven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, will testify for the first time before the Congressional Oversight Committee about his decision to end pandemic relief programs.