Ken Cedeno/Pool Photo via AP
WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed economist Lisa Cook to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors on Tuesday, making her the first black woman to do so in the institution’s 108-year history.
Its passage was based on a narrow party-line vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote.
Senate Republicans argued that she is unqualified for the job, saying she does not have enough experience with interest rate policy. They also said her testimony before the Senate Banking Committee suggested she wasn’t committed enough to fighting inflation, which is at its highest point in four decades.
Cook has a doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been a professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State since 2005. She was also a staff economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 to 2012. and was an adviser to President Biden’s transition team on Fed and banking regulatory policy.
Some of his best-known research has focused on the impact of lynching and racial violence on African-American innovation.
Cook is only the second of Biden’s five Fed candidates to win Senate confirmation. His Fed picks have faced an unusual level of partisan opposition, given the Fed’s history as an independent agency that seeks to remain above politics.
However, some critics say the Fed has contributed to increased scrutiny by addressing a broader range of issues in recent years, such as the role of climate change in financial stability and racial disparities in employment.
Biden asked the Senate early Tuesday to approve his nominees as the Fed looks to fight inflation.
“I will never interfere with the Federal Reserve,” Biden said. “The Fed should and will do its job, I’m convinced.”
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is currently serving on a temporary basis after his term ended in February. He was approved by the Senate Banking Committee by a near unanimous vote in March.
Fed Governor Lael Brainard was confirmed two weeks ago for the influential post of Fed Vice Chair by 52 votes to 43.
Philip Jefferson, an economics professor and dean of Davidson College in North Carolina, was also Biden’s nominee for a gubernatorial post and was unanimously approved by the Finance Committee. He would be the fourth black man to serve on the Fed’s board.
Biden also nominated Michael Barr, a former Treasury Department official, to be the Fed’s top banking regulator, after an earlier pick, Sarah Bloom Raskin, faced opposition from West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
Cook, Jefferson and Barr would join Brainard as Democratic appointees to the Fed. However, most economists expect the Fed to continue on its path of steep rate hikes this year.