Senate approves Lisa Cook as first black woman in Fed role

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed economist Lisa Cook to serve on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve, making her the first black woman to do so in the institution’s 108-year history.

His approval rested on a narrow 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote.

Senate Republicans argued she was unqualified for the job, saying she did not have enough experience in interest rate policy. They also said his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee suggested she was not sufficiently engaged in tackling inflation, which is at four-decade highs.

Cook holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been Professor of Economics and International Relations at Michigan State since 2005. She also served as an economist with the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 to 2012 and served as an advisor to President Joe Biden‘s transition team on Fed and banking regulatory policy.

Some of his best-known research has focused on the impact of lynchings and racial violence on African-American innovation.

Cook is only the second of Biden’s five nominees for the Fed to win Senate confirmation. His Fed picks have been met with an unusual level of partisan opposition, given the Fed’s history as an independent agency that seeks to stay above politics.

Some critics, however, accuse the Fed of contributing to increased scrutiny by addressing a broader range of issues in recent years, such as the role of climate change on financial stability and racial disparities in employment.

Biden called on the Senate Tuesday morning to endorse his nominees as the Fed seeks to fight inflation.

“I will never interfere with the Fed,” Biden said. “The Fed must do its job and will do its job, I am convinced of that.”

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is currently in a temporary position after his term ended in February. It was approved by the Senate Banking Committee by a nearly unanimous vote in March.

Fed Governor Lael Brainard was confirmed two weeks ago for the influential position of Fed Vice Chairman by a vote of 52 to 43.

Philip Jefferson, an economics professor and dean of Davidson College in North Carolina, was also nominated by Biden for a governorship and was unanimously endorsed by the finance committee. He would be the fourth black man to serve on the Fed’s board of directors.

Biden also named Michael Barra former Treasury Department official, to be the Fed’s chief banking regulator, after a previous choice, Sarah Bloom Raskin, faced opposition of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Cook, Jefferson and Barr would join Brainard as Democratic Fed nominees. Still, most economists expect the Fed to continue on its path of big rate hikes This year.

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