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US Senate confirms Brainard as Fed vice chair

The US Senate on Tuesday confirmed Lael Brainard to serve as the Federal Reserve's vice chair, but Covid infections among Democratic senators allowed Republicans to block a vote on Lisa Cook becoming the first Black woman on the board.

U.S. Federal Reserve board member Lael Brainard speaks after she was nominated by U.S. President Joe Biden to serve as vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2021. PHOTO: Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The US Senate on Tuesday confirmed Lael Brainard to serve as the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, but Covid infections among Democratic senators allowed Republicans to block a vote on Lisa Cook becoming the first Black woman on the board.

Brainard, who has served on the Fed board since 2014, was promoted to her new post by a 52-43 vote with the support of seven Republicans.

But the upper house of Congress failed to hold a final vote on Cook’s nomination, amid Republican opposition and because Democrats, who hold a slim edge, were unable to force the issue since two senators announced they have Covid, as does Vice President Kamala Harris who could cast a tie-breaking vote.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio blasted Republicans.

“It is disappointing that Senate Republicans are exploiting the absences of our colleagues to stop a qualified Black woman – the first African-American woman ever nominated to serve on the Federal Reserve Board,” he said in a statement.

“Once again, they’ve decided that scoring political points is more important than serving the public and bringing down prices for American families,” he said, vowing that the Senate will reconsider Cook’s nomination “expeditiously.”

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is still awaiting confirmation for a second term at the helm of the central bank, which is set to raise interest rates aggressively to combat record-high inflation.

Even Brainard, who is generally less hawkish on inflation, supports a series of rate hikes to try to cool prices that have risen to a 40-year high.

Powell, a Republican, is still leading the central bank but his term officially expired February 4, and Philip Jefferson also is awaiting confirmation to join its Board of Governors.

The powerful post of Fed vice chair for supervision, which oversees the nation’s banks, remains in question after President Joe Biden’s nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew amid opposition from a key Democratic senator made her confirmation unlikely.

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