Senate narrowly approves Lisa Cook as first black woman to serve on Federal Reserve Board

Lisa Cook, appointed member of the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors, testifies before a confirmation hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on February 3, 2022.

KEN CEDENO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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

Its approval was in a narrow, partisan vote of 51 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote.

Senate Republicans have argued that she is unqualified for the position, saying she does not have enough experience with interest rate policy. They also said her testimony before the Senate Banking Committee suggested she was not sufficiently committed to fighting inflation, which is running at four-decade highs.

Cook holds 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 an economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 to 2012 and was a consultant to the transition team at the Chairman Joe Biden on Fed and Banks 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 Fed nominees to win Senate confirmation. His Fed choices faced an unusual level of partisan opposition, given the Fed’s history as an independent agency seeking to remain above politics.

Some critics claim, however, that 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 on Tuesday to approve 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’m convinced.”

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is currently serving in a temporary capacity after his term ends in February. It 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 to 43 votes.

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

Mr. Biden too named Michael Barra former Treasury Department official, to be the Fed’s top banking regulator after an earlier choice, Sarah Bloom Raskin, faced opposition from West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Cook, Jefferson and Barr would join Brainard as Democratic nominees for the Fed. However, most economists expect the Fed to continue on its path of sharp rate hikes this year.

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