Yellen Confirmed as First Female Treasury Secretary; Has Extensive Economic Policy Background and Record of Support for Community Development

Published by Peter Lawrence on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - 12:00am

The Senate on Monday confirmed Janet Yellen as secretary of the Department of the Treasury by a strong bipartisan vote of 84-15, making her the first woman to hold the position.

The vote marks Yellen’s sixth confirmation by the full Senate, including as Federal Reserve chairwoman, a job she held from 2014 to 2018. Yellen was also the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve. Before that, she was confirmed for the Federal Reserve's No. 2 position, where she was vice chairwoman from 2010 to 2014, after serving as a board member in the 1990s Yellen was also confirmed as White House Council of Economic Advisors chairwoman during President Bill Clinton's second term.

Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, who will be the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, said he had “strong disagreements” with Yellen. But he noted the commitments she made at her confirmation hearing Tuesday to work with Republicans.

Yellen encouraged Congress to “act big” on a relief package at her confirmation hearing Tuesday. President Biden has called for a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which includes another $25 billion in emergency rental assistance in addition to the $25 billion Congress approved in December 2020 as well as $5 billion for utility assistance and $5 billion for homeless assistance.

As Novogradac noted prior to her confirmation hearing as the Federal Reserve chairwoman, Yellen has mentioned the importance of community development and Community Reinvestment Act in variety of speeches she has delivered in her career. More recently, in response to a question posed by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., on the low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and the bill he leads with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, Yellen responded in support of the LIHTC and the recently enacted 4% floor:

“I am grateful for your leadership in expanding housing affordability through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and supportive of your work. The measure that Congress enacted through your leadership is a critically important initiative that will help to make the LIHTC more effective and to increase housing affordability across the country. If I am privileged to be confirmed as Treasury Secretary, I would be honored to work with you on additional measures to strengthen and improve the LIHTC.”

In addition to the COVID relief, Congress is expected in 2021 to consider infrastructure financing legislation, which could serve as a legislative vehicle for LIHTC, new markets tax credit (NMTC), historic tax credit and renewable energy tax credit provisions. In his campaign platform, President Biden called for a $640 billion affordable housing plan, which included a LIHTC expansion, permanence for the NMTC and extension and expansion of renewable energy tax credits as part of his climate change agenda.