Senate Confirms Lisa Cook as First Black Woman on Federal Reserve Board

The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Michigan State University economics professor Lisa Cook to the Federal Reserve Board, a process that required the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

With her 51-50 victory (including the Harris vote), Cook becomes the first black woman in U.S. history to serve as a Fed board governor.

The vote was a partisan exercise across the board, with the 50 Senate Democrats (including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who ran as a Democratic Party presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020) voting yes and the 50 Senate Republicans filing a no vote on behalf of Cook, who served as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, along with the executive committee of the American Economic Association.

Cook’s confirmation makes her President Joe Biden’s second Senate-confirmed Fed nominee, and his first addition to the Fed board.

Last month, the Senate voted in Fed Governor Lael Brainard as vice chair of the Fed board, but the swearing-in process has yet to occur.

Cook’s supporters in Congress, along with the hundreds of economists who urged for her confirmation — including Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke — were apparently impressed with “groundbreaking” research into the economic effects of racism.

“We know that [Cook] understands how economic policy affects all kinds of different people in different parts of the country — from the rural South where she grew up to the industrial Midwest, where she built her career,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

“Instead of the cookie-cutter people we always get on the Federal Reserve, they don’t know real people, and Lisa Cook knows real people,” he added.

Republicans, however, were reportedly wary of Cook’s limited academic focus on monetary economics, along with certain politically charged Twitter posts from her past.

With the country experiencing 40-year-high inflation, all Fed board appointments warrant such scrutiny, argued Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

“It’s no question, these are impressive credentials,” said Toomey, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, while addressing the Senate floor. “But they do not by themselves qualify her, or anyone else for that matter, to serve as a governor of the Fed, especially at a time when we need a Fed that is able and willing to tackle 40-year-high inflation that’s devastating American families every single day.”

Toomey also said that Cook “has not been able to articulate any opinion at all” on how the Fed should fight inflation, characterizing her confirmation-hearing comments on inflation as “logical applesauce.”

The Senate could be busy over the next few days.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is expected to serve another term, and Phillip Jefferson — a Davidson College economics professor — could become a Fed governor.

Both Powell and Jefferson were confirmed by sizable numbers, after securing the clearance from the Senate Banking Committee.


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