Biden chief economist pick Bernstein moves toward Senate confirmation
The longtime Biden aide has already been an important voice in the administration’s economic messaging.
President Joe Biden’s pick for chief economist, Jared Bernstein, is one step closer to Senate confirmation to a post that will be key to White House efforts to steer the economy away from recession.
Bernstein cleared the Senate Banking Committee in a 12-11 vote on Thursday, putting him on track to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers at a time when Biden is running for reelection, growth is slowing and inflation remains persistently high.
The longtime Biden aide has already been an important voice in the administration’s economic messaging, including on legislation passed last year that boosted spending on infrastructure, semiconductor manufacturing and climate initiatives.
Republicans criticized Bernstein — who is currently a member of the CEA — for being part of the chorus, both in and outside of the administration, predicting in 2021 that inflation would be merely a transitory phenomenon. Though price spikes have steadily cooled since June 2022, inflation is still hovering just under 5 percent. They are also critical of the president’s energy policies.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) argued that Bernstein “would be the most extreme nominee we have ever had for the position of chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.”
Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) disagreed, saying, “There is simply no good reason why this committee shouldn’t, in bipartisan fashion, vote to advance his nomination.”
Now, Bernstein will have to advise the president heading into the 2024 election, over a period that could include at least a mild downturn.
The Federal Reserve is considering pausing its aggressive interest rate hikes to give its policy moves time to feed through to spending and investment, something that could start to slam the job market in the coming months. For now, unemployment is at modern-era lows.
Alternatively, consumer spending could continue chugging along at a rapid pace, keeping inflation well above the central bank’s 2 percent target and nudging the Fed to slam the brakes harder.