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Presidential Transition Live Updates: Biden to Introduce His Economic Team for a Nation in Crisis | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Presidential Transition Live Updates: Biden to Introduce His Economic Team for a Nation in Crisis

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Credit…Jay Mallin/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to introduce key members of their economic team on Tuesday, as they prepare to assume the White House in a time of economic tumult.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are set to introduce the team at an early-afternoon event in Wilmington, Del., according to the transition team.

Mr. Biden is poised to enter the White House at a time of national crisis amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Labor and Department of Commerce have reported an increase in applications for state jobless benefits and a decrease in personal income. Coronavirus cases have soared in recent weeks.

Mr. Biden has warned of a “very dark winter” ahead and called on Congress to pass relief to help workers, businesses, and state and local governments. But another economic stimulus package has languished in Congress, where Democrats and Republicans have been unable to reach a deal. And Mr. Biden’s advisers are preparing for what could be another economic downturn in early 2021.

Tuesday’s slate of nominees and appointees includes several women in top economic roles. The selections, markedly different from Mr. Trump’s cabinet, which has been overwhelmingly white and male, follow Mr. Biden’s campaign promise to build an administration that looks like America.

He has chosen Cecilia Rouse to lead the Council of Economic Advisers; she would be the first Black woman in the role. Ms. Rouse is a Princeton economist who worked on the Council of Economic Advisers during part of the Obama era and on the White House’s National Economic Council during the Clinton administration.

His pick for the Office of Management and Budget — Neera Tanden, the chief executive of the Center for American Progress — would be the first Indian-American to lead the office if confirmed. Mr. Biden also selected Janet L. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, to be his Treasury Secretary. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to fill the position.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are also scheduled to announce their picks for deputy treasury secretary, Adewale Adeyemo, and members of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.

Mr. Adeyemo served as a senior international economic adviser under former President Barack Obama, and Mr. Bernstein was Mr. Biden’s first chief economist when he was vice president. Ms. Boushey, a top policy adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016, leads the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank focused on inequality.

The introductions will follow a similar event last week, when Mr. Biden publicly introduced members of his foreign policy and national security team.

Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Jeffrey D. Zients, the former head of the Obama administration’s National Economic Council, has emerged as an important power center as a co-chairman of the Biden transition team and is currently a top candidate to be the coronavirus czar, a role in which he would steer the government’s response to the pandemic that has wrought financial hardship across the country.

Progressives are concerned that his recent role leading an investment fund, Cranemere, and his two years sitting on the board of Facebook, would make him sympathetic to corporate America. His role as a bridge to business during the Obama administration has raised some eyebrows as well since he was one of the administration’s chief liaisons to executives and lobbyists when anger at Wall Street over the 2007-8 financial crisis was still at its peak. Top lobbyists such as the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have praised Mr. Zients as someone who heard them out.

In a sign of the pushback to come, the advocacy group Revolving Door Project has been urging Mr. Biden to keep corporate influence out of his administration and has compiled a 13-page document about Mr. Zients. The file highlights his wealth, his appetite for deficit reduction during the Obama years and his recent work as chief executive of Cranemere.

Early in his career, Mr. Zients worked as a consultant at Bain & Company before joining the Advisory Board Company, a health care research and consulting firm, where he rose to chief executive.

Jeff Hauser, the director of the Revolving Door Project, said that while he sees Mr. Zients’s experience in the health care industry as useful for managing the pandemic response, he was concerned that Mr. Zients could be too accommodating to business as vaccines are rolled out next year.

The pre-emptive resistance to Mr. Zients (pronounced ZYE-ents) from the left is the latest indication of how the Democratic Party has shifted in the dozen years since former President Barack Obama took office amid a financial crisis. Now, business and finance experience can turn otherwise qualified White House candidates into pariahs for progressives.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The stage being built on the West Front of the Capitol can hold 1,600 spectators for a close-up view of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as he takes the oath of office. The reviewing stand under construction in front of the White House will be ready for the inaugural parade and thousands of cheering onlookers as the marchers pass by. And the National Mall is prepared to accommodate many more.

But the traditional pomp and circumstance of America’s quadrennial version of a coronation is colliding with the grim reality of a pandemic that is likely to still be raging on Jan. 20. For that reason, Mr. Biden’s team is signaling that he wants a very different kind of inauguration.

If he had won re-election, President Trump was expected to shrug off the health threats in favor of huge crowds for his inauguration. But Mr. Biden has already indicated that his will not be business as usual. In a statement on Monday, the newly appointed chief executive of Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee hinted at the looming balancing act between health and politics.

“We will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe,” said Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University and the committee’s chief executive.

What could that look like?

Aides to the president-elect are being coy. But Mr. Biden’s approach to campaigning during the pandemic — which included drive-in rallies, socially distanced news conferences and a largely virtual national convention — provides a blueprint for how events might be reshaped for the Covid-19 era.

On Capitol Hill, where the official inaugural ceremonies are arranged by a bipartisan congressional committee, lawmakers and aides have quietly been at work since long before the election trying to reimagine what a transfer of power during a pandemic might look like.

The short answer is: quite a bit less crowded.

The organizers are determined that Mr. Biden take the oath of office and deliver an address to the nation outside the West Front of the Capitol, preserving an iconic tableau that has often set the tone for a new presidency. But to make it happen, they are expected to slash the number of officials flanking Mr. Biden.

Those who do make the cut — Supreme Court justices, former presidents, top House and Senate leaders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff among them — will be required to socially distance and wear masks. Some may be asked to take coronavirus tests.

Credit…Stephen Morton/Associated Press

President Trump’s sustained assault on his own party in Georgia, and his repeated claims of election fraud in the state, have intensified worries among Republicans that he could be hurting their ability to win two crucial Senate runoff races next month.

The president has continued to claim without evidence that his loss in the new battleground state was fraudulent, directing his ire in particular at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, whom he has accused of not doing enough to help him overturn the result.

Over the weekend, he escalated his attacks on Mr. Kemp, saying he was “ashamed” to have endorsed him in 2018, and on Monday he called Mr. Kemp “hapless” on Twitter as he urged him to “overrule his obstinate Republican Secretary of state.’’

Mr. Trump’s broadsides have quietly rattled some Republicans in the state, who fear that concerns about the fairness of the presidential election could depress turnout for the Senate races, which will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber.

After resisting entreaties to appear in Georgia, the president plans to travel there this weekend, though even some of his own aides remain uncertain whether his anger toward state officials will overshadow any support he may lend the party’s two candidates.

“You can’t say the system is rigged but elect these two senators,” said Eric Johnson, a former Republican leader of the Georgia Senate who is a campaign adviser to Kelly Loeffler, one of the Republican candidates. “At some point he either drops it or he says I want everybody to vote and get their friends to vote so that the margins are so large that they can’t steal it.”

The split signifies both an extraordinary dispute over election integrity within the Republican Party and a preview of the control the president may continue to exert over the conservative base even after he leaves office. As Mr. Trump talks seriously about the possibility of mounting another bid for the White House in 2024, his personal goals may not always align with those of his party — no matter the political stakes.

“I had someone message me just last week saying: ‘Nope, I’m done. Can’t trust the election. Never voting again,’” said Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state representative. “The president has a very dedicated group of supporters who don’t really support the broader Republican Party — they support him.”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

With just weeks until the two Georgia runoff elections that will determine the balance of the Senate, progressive groups are pouring resources into the state — on behalf of two candidates who do not share their most ambitious policy goals.

Though the candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, have not endorsed the Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement, the activist climate group that champions the sweeping climate change plan, is aiming to help register 10,000 to 20,000 Georgians who will turn 18 by Jan. 5, the day of the elections. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has already raised $386,000 for the two Democratic candidates. MoveOn, a progressive group, hopes to mobilize many of its 250,000 members in Georgia, and more nationwide, to canvass and phone bank in the state.

The furious efforts reflect the urgency that is consuming the Democratic Party’s left flank. Two victories in Georgia would produce a 50-50 tie in the Senate, giving Democrats control of the chamber because Kamala Harris would cast tiebreaking votes as vice president.

“We are moving heaven and earth and pointing all of our resources as much as we can to help us win those two seats in Georgia,” said Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat who will join the House in the next term.

Mr. Bowman said he spoke recently with Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 and is widely credited with voter turnout initiatives that helped flip Georgia blue this year, to see how he could support her efforts. And he said that he and other progressives in the House — including those known as the squad, a now-growing group that began with four congresswomen of color — were strategizing about how to help in Georgia.

But progressives also understand that for decades Georgia has been a Republican stronghold with a large number of conservative voters, and that their efforts there need to be modulated. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the state, many Democrats point out, with a moderate agenda that tempered the rhetoric and policy goals of the left.

Amid deepening ideological fault lines among Democrats over messaging and electoral strategy — divisions that have burst into the open as the party takes stock of its painful losses down the ballot — the two Senate runoff elections will also be a test case for whether progressives can balance their broad calls for change with the realities of campaigning in a once reliably Republican state.


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