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Fed's Brainard vows to fight inflation, deflects Republican climate criticism

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Fed's Brainard vows to fight inflation, deflects Republican climate criticism © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

By Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, in a hearing for her nomination to become the U.S. central bank's vice chair, pledged on Thursday to help bring inflation under control and tried to deflect Republican senators' concerns that she would use the position to sway the national debate over climate change.

In a hint that her nomination may be a proxy for a larger partisan debate about the Fed's direction, Brainard was quizzed by Republican Senator Pat Toomey on whether her support for more climate research and analysis at the central bank was "a precursor to direct capital away from" carbon-intensive industries.

"I have not suggested we do stress tests for climate," Brainard responded. "We would not tell banks which sectors to lend to or not lend to. But we do want to make sure they are measuring, monitoring, their material risks."

Brainard's comments were similar to those delivered by Fed Chair Jerome Powell at his own nomination hearing on Tuesday. But the questioning by Toomey and other Republicans noted deeper concern that pending Biden administration appointments may steer the Fed in a more aggressive direction on climate issues.

The Democratic president is considering nominating former Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin as the central bank's vice chair for supervision and regulation, for example, and Toomey noted her opposition, outlined in a 2020 New York Times article, to oil and gas firms' participation in the Fed's pandemic-related rescue lending.

"I have not studied her positions," Brainard said. "I can speak to what we do in our supervisory guidance. It is pretty meat and potatoes."

Only four of the Fed board's seven seats are filled right now, and pending Biden appointments could advance what he and his supporters feel should be a bigger Fed role on climate issues and a tougher hand with Wall Street.

DISSENTING VOICE

Brainard, a Democrat, was first appointed to the Fed in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama and confirmed at the time by a 61-31 Senate vote.

Since then, she has been a frequent dissenting vote against steps taken during former President Donald Trump's administration and under Powell to loosen oversight of the largest banks; called for the Fed to require financial firms to set aside more capital; and worried that Fed officials were behind European central bankers in understanding how climate change might effect the macroeconomy and financial system.

A PhD economist and veteran Washington policymaker, she downplayed the possibility that as vice chair she would have any particular influence.

The Fed vice chair is "traditionally a role that supports the chair and achieves consensus" over monetary policy and other issues.

In contrast to the Republican questioning, the Democratic chairman of the committee, Senator Sherrod Brown, opened the hearing with a glowing endorsement, calling Brainard a "steady hand" helping lead the Fed during the coronavirus pandemic, and "someone who understands that workers, not corporations, not Wall Street," were at the heart of the U.S. economy.

In her opening remarks to the committee, Brainard said that controlling inflation that has spiked to nearly a 40-year high is the "most important task" the Fed must tackle to keep the current economic expansion underway - comments that echoed those of Powell earlier in the week.

"We are seeing the strongest rebound in growth and decline in unemployment of any recovery in the past five decades," Brainard said. "But inflation is too high, and working people around the country are concerned about how far their paychecks will go. Our monetary policy is focused on getting inflation back down to 2 percent while sustaining a recovery that includes everyone. This is our most important task."

A majority vote of the Senate, where Democrats exercise narrow control, is required to confirm Brainard to the vice chair position.

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# So hôm qua # Chênh TG
SJC Eximbank6,120/ 6,160
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SJC HCM6,110/ 6,170
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SJC Hanoi6,110/ 6,172
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SJC Danang6,110/ 6,172
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SJC Nhatrang6,110/ 6,172
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