In an 84-13 vote early Tuesday evening, the Senate confirmed Jerome Powell, a Republican with broad bipartisan support, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He’ll replace “feminist hero” Janet Yellen when her term ends next month.
Powell was first appointed to the Federal Reserve board in 2012 by Barack Obama, and nominated as chairman last November by President Trump. In doing so, Trump broke with longstanding tradition in not extending the term of the existing chair, regardless of political affiliation. Yellen will end her term having achieved a remarkable victory, overseeing a 4.1 percent unemployment rate (a 17-year-low) and a 2.1 percent inflation rate.
It’s unclear how much Powell, whose voting record is nearly identical to Yellen’s, will diverge from his predecessors: In an interview with the Washington Post, Brookings Institution senior fellow David Wessel said that “much of what [Powell] knows” comes from Yellen and former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, adding that he studied closely under the two in his time on the Fed’s board.
But his conservative lean worries Democrats. Powell famously told Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in November that he believes regulations on Wall Street “are tough enough” as-is, in response to a question about whether he would seek to strengthen banking laws. Warren voted against Powell on Tuesday and delivered a firm rebuke to his confirmation on the Senate floor.
“I’m deeply concerned that as soon as Governor Powell unpacks his boxes in the Chairman’s office, he will begin weakening the new rules Congress and the Fed put in place after the 2008 financial crisis,” Warren said Tuesday. “We need someone who believes in tougher rules for banks — not weaker ones. That person is not Governor Powell.”