Janet Yellen Biden’s Treasury Secretary Pick

Another unassailable if boring cabinet choice.

President-elect Joe Biden promised late last week that his pick for the post would satisfy both progressives and moderates. Time will tell* but it’s plausible that he’s hit that sweet spot with this choice.

CNBC (“Biden chooses former Fed Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary“):

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, a historic decision that could make her the first woman to lead the department, according to people familiar with the matter.

Yellen, 74, is widely seen as a politically “safe” pick for the role, likely to garner support from Senate Republicans as someone capable of pursing bipartisan compromise during an otherwise fragile time for the economy.

A graduate of Brown and Yale universities, Yellen was also the first woman to serve as Fed chair after her Senate confirmation in 2014.

Aside from the wisdom of choosing a 74-year-old for a rather senior post, the choice would seem unassailable. Indeed, I can’t think of a previous modern nominee for the post that enjoyed this stature at the time. (Alexander Hamilton, the first occupant, was obviously a household name but not for economic expertise. The only modern choice that comes close is James Baker, who took over at Treasury after a star turn at State. Lloyd Benson, who was a failed Vice Presidential nominee and longtime chair of the Senate Finance Committee, deserves honorable mention.)

Her four-year tenure at the helm of the Fed, marked by an improving jobs market and historically low interest rates, may also boost her odds for confirmation.

Political strategists say hopes for a more progressive choice, such as noted Wall Street critic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, had been abandoned after it became clear Democrats would not win a sizable majority in the Senate.

“Janet is a big name, with significant experience highlighted by her time at The Fed,” wrote Alli McCartney, managing director at UBS.

“I am not surprised markets are reacting favorably as this choice is reassuring, especially with the challenges that lie ahead including avoiding a double dip recession and getting people back to work amidst rising virus cases.”

Again, there could have been more exciting choices. But the country has enough excitement for a while.

*UPDATE: Democracy For America has put out a glowing statement.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    A solid choice.

    AND, Biden’s timing in announcing all these picks is just about perfect.

  2. Kathy says:

    I vote for competence over excitement.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Something is wrong…all these announcements, and no one is named Biden.
    Or is a Biden son-in-law.

  4. Nightcrawler says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I don’t think any of them have ever starred on a reality TV show, either. How can this be?

  5. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Hm. No one form central casting, no former generals, no big business executives, and no one is proclaiming Biden the greatest anything that has ever existed.

    Good luck forming and running a government on competence, experience, and managerial ability!

  6. ImProPer says:


    “I vote for competence over excitement.”

    I’ll second that. Looking forward to once again having my laughter and fear coming from Hollywood, rather than Washington DC

  7. Scott F. says:

    No current Congresspeople in today’s nominations. Good for Biden.

  8. Kathy says:


    I’m looking forward to not having an outrage on a near daily basis, and of going days without hearing from the White House.

  9. Bring on the boring!!

  10. PJ says:

    I read half the first sentence and fell asleep.
    Ratings will suck.
    No one will watch.
    Low energy.

  11. al Ameda says:

    Let me go on the record now:
    If Janet Yellen is rejected by the Republican Senate, I will begin to make plans to move to Lausanne or Vevey in Switzerland.

  12. de stijl says:

    Yellen has a really interesting voice / inflection. She is fascinating to listen to.