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Biden picks Lael Brainard, top Fed official, to run economic team

The No. 2 official at the central bank will lead the National Economic Council as the administration seeks to raise the debt limit

President Biden has chosen Lael Brainard, vice chair of the Federal Reserve, to run the National Economic Council. (Susan Walsh/AP)
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The White House will announce this week the two new leaders of its economic team, as President Biden puts in place key personnel following last year’s midterm elections and ahead of the upcoming presidential campaign.

Biden will appoint Lael Brainard, a top official at the Federal Reserve, to lead the White House economic team as director of the National Economic Council, according to two people familiar with the matter. He will also name Jared Bernstein, who serves as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and was Biden’s top economics aide during the Obama administration, as that group’s chair, according to two people familiar with that decision.

The elevation of Brainard and Bernstein comes as the Biden administration prepares for potentially grueling negotiations with congressional Republicans over the nation’s borrowing limit and as the economy struggles to curb inflation, with a new report on prices set for release on Tuesday.

Both Brainard and Bernstein have for weeks been considered the front-runners for their respective posts. The No. 2 official at the central bank, Brainard will replace Brian Deese, who has served as the top White House economics adviser since the beginning of Biden’s term. Deese, whose departure was announced earlier this month, is expected to step down this week, two people familiar with the matter said. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters not yet made public.

Brainard has been at the Fed since 2014, and her appointment is expected to be cheered by liberals who have supported her tough stance on Wall Street and her focus on the economic impact of climate change. Brainard is a Harvard-educated economist and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before serving in senior roles across federal economic institutions, including the Fed, NEC and Treasury Department.

Who is Lael Brainard?

If anything, Bernstein has even deeper ties to the liberal wing of the party, having served for years as a top analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank that frequently mounts vigorous defenses of federal welfare programs. Bernstein, known for his focus on the labor market and for supporting unions, will replace Cecilia Rouse, who has served as chair since the outset of the Biden administration but is expected to soon return to her post at Princeton University.

Republicans are likely to tie both Brainard and Bernstein to inflation, which they have blamed on Biden. Brainard was at the central bank as it maintained low interest rates despite signs of an overheating economy, while Bernstein was in the administration as it approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan in 2021 that critics say exacerbated inflation.