The Federal Reserve has been yanked into the spotlight since two top officials left their posts over stock trading behavior and Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized Chair Jerome H. Powell as a “dangerous man.” Yet looming over these incidents is a broader, fundamental question over who leads the Fed.

The Biden administration can fill as many as four seats on the Fed’s board of governors in the coming months, including the most critical decision — who should be chair. But people close to the administration, Hill and Fed say there’s been little progress toward any decisions.

Now, those leadership changes are colliding with vacancies left by Eric Rosengren and Robert Kaplan, who exited their jobs running the Boston and Dallas Feds, respectively, after revelations of their financial activities became public.

Fed watchers say the vacuums distract from the Fed’s economic responsibilities at a fraught time in the recovery. And experts say the events make it harder for the central bank to regain public trust.

“Rosengren and Kaplan having stepped down was critical, and now there’s a chance through these openings, and through the openings on the board itself, to really think about what kind of leadership will enable the Federal Reserve to do its job, and to have the trust of the American public,” said Stephanie Aaronson, who spent almost two decades as a Fed economist and is now at the Brookings Institution.

The Fed is independent from the White House and stakes much of its reputation on a separation from politics. But it can never truly escape Washington’s churn; presidents nominate candidates to the Fed’s seven-member board, and those jobs undergo Senate confirmation. The Fed is often subject to turnover when new administrations come to office.

Still, it’s relatively unusual for the Fed to go through this kind of transformation during such a consequential time for the economy. Inflation is running high and Fed leaders don’t expect it to come down until supply chains clear up. The labor market is still down at least 5 million jobs from before the pandemic, and the delta variant is slowing progress. And all the while, the Fed is preparing to start easing its support for the markets, which seems likely to begin in November.

Powell’s term is up in February, and the White House has not yet signaled whether he will stay on as chair. Randal Quarles’s term as vice chair for supervision, basically the Fed’s top banking cop, expires in less than two weeks. In January, Biden can install a new overall vice chair, replacing Richard Clarida, who assumed the role under President Donald Trump. There’s also one board seat that’s already empty.

Some Fed watchers close to the administration and Hill think Powell is likely be renominated. Elevated to the top job by Trump, Powell has won broad praise for his leadership during the covid crisis and has strong relationships across Capitol Hill. Many Democrats have also rallied around Powell’s emphasis on full employment and the benefits of a hot labor market, particularly for workers of color.

Still, Powell’s detractors on the left criticize his record on banking regulation and the Fed’s moves under Quarles and Powell to ease Wall Street oversight. On Tuesday, Warren (D-Mass.) became the first senator to come out against Powell getting a second term.

“Your record gives me grave concern,” Warren told Powell during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “And that makes you a dangerous man to head up the Fed, and it’s why I will oppose your renomination.”

Powell almost certainly has the votes to get through another confirmation, and people close to the Hill and White House did not have the impression that Warren’s remarks are influencing the administration’s decision-making. If anything, some privately felt that Warren’s rhetoric was unnecessarily heated and ultimately undermined her long-held views regarding strict Wall Street oversight.

Warren did not endorse another candidate during Tuesday’s hearing. But in past remarks, she has praised Lael Brainard, the Fed board’s lone Democrat, for consistently voting against banking deregulation.

Brainard is widely considered to be the only other candidate in the running for Fed chair. In addition to her reputation for championing financial regulation, Brainard’s portfolio has focused on climate change and its threat to financial stability, along with the modernization of the Community Reinvestment Act, among other key issues. Last year, Powell brought Brainard into the Fed’s close inner circle — a group traditionally confined to the Fed chair, vice chair and New York Fed president — that shapes the monetary policy agenda.

Biden has staked much of his economic agenda on racial equity, and Fed watchers say his picks for the Fed will test that commitment. Many economists and lawmakers are urging the White House to seize these nominations to make the Fed more representative of the country it serves. In its entire history, the Fed has only had three Black governors, all of whom were men.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) last week called attention to the dearth of Black economists within the Fed system. During the Senate Banking Committee hearing, Brown asked Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who was also testifying, if the Fed would be more successful if “Black women had a voice and a seat at the table.” Yellen and Powell both agreed.

Michigan State University’s Lisa Cook, one of the country’s preeminent economists, is routinely named by Fed watchers as a candidate for one of Fed board’s upcoming slots. Brown did not mention Cook during Tuesday’s hearing but has been advocating for her nomination behind the scenes.

Focus on the Fed’s leadership took on another dimension last week when Kaplan and Rosengren retired over their financial trading activity during the coronavirus crisis. That behavior spurred an unusual ethics review at the Fed and cast a shadow over public perceptions of the Fed. Testifying on the Hill last week, Powell said while trades by Rosengren and Kaplan fell in line with Fed guidelines, “the appearance is just obviously unacceptable.”

“That just tells you that the problem is that the rules, the practices and the disclosure needs to be improved,” Powell said. “We will rise to this moment.”

The White House does not nominate presidents of the Fed’s 12 regional banks; those decisions are made at the district level. Still, regional bank presidents rotate as voting members of the Fed committee that sets monetary policy.

In Fed history, there have been only three non-White regional bank presidents, and only one Black regional bank president, according to research from Peter Conti-Brown and Kaleb Nygaard. Kaplan’s and Rosengren’s exits fixed attention on who will fill those slots, and whether their successors would bring more diversity to the Fed’s ranks.

“We will work hard in both of those processes to find and give a fair shot to diverse candidates for those two jobs,” Powell told lawmakers when asked about the vacancies. “It’ll be a big focus of both of those processes.”

Julia Coronado, president of MacroPolicy Perspectives and a former Fed economist, said the uncertainty facing the economy is ultimately much greater than the uncertainty stemming from these personnel issues. But Coronado said the turnover does put pressure “on the next picks to be worthy of the public trust.”

“It is a challenge, and it’s a distraction in an otherwise-challenging environment,” Coronado said.