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Mnuchin : Yellen Hasn't Decided Whether to Stay at Fed When Chairwoman Term Ends

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11/08/2017 | 08:50pm CET
By Kate Davidson 

WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen hasn't decided whether to stay on the Fed board when her term as chairwoman ends next year, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

President Donald Trump last week said he is nominating Fed governor Jerome Powell to succeed Ms. Yellen at the end of her four-year term as Fed chief, which ends Feb. 3. Ms. Yellen is also serving a 14-year term on the Fed's board of governors that doesn't expire until January 2024.

Asked whether Ms. Yellen intends to continue serving on the board of governors, Mr. Mnuchin told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, "I don't think she's made any decision in regards to that one way or another yet," adding that the two had breakfast together Wednesday morning.

Mr. Mnuchin also said the administration is moving ahead with plans to fill several other Fed vacancies, including vice chairman.

A Fed spokeswoman declined to comment.

Ms. Yellen has previously declined to weigh in on whether she would stay at the Fed beyond her tenure as chairwoman, though she acknowledged at a press conference in December that she had the option to stay. "That's a decision for another day," she said at the time.

More recently, Ms. Yellen said at a press conference in September, "I have said that I intend to serve out my term as chair, and that I'm really not going to comment on my intentions beyond that."

It is customary for Fed leaders to leave the central bank after their terms as chairmen expire. But there is precedent for staying: Marriner Eccles stayed at the Fed as a governor for three years after his term as chairman expired in 1948, when President Harry Truman selected Thomas McCabe to lead the central bank.

The Fed's vice chairman slot was vacated last month when Stanley Fischer stepped down.

Asked whether the vice chairman would have a strong background in macroeconomics -- to complement Mr. Powell, who doesn't have a doctorate in economics as recent Fed leaders have -- Mr. Mnuchin demurred.

"I wouldn't describe there's a specific criteria," he said. "There's a lot of things that we look at, but the vice chair is a very important position. That's something we're already considering people for."

In addition to the vice chairman job, the White House has two other Fed board vacancies to fill and could have a fourth opening if Ms. Yellen chooses to resign in February.

Mr. Powell began meeting with senators on Capitol Hill this week in advance of his confirmation hearing, which is expected to take place before the end of the year but hasn't been scheduled yet.

He met Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who voted in favor of Mr. Powell's nomination to the Fed board in 2012 but voted against his renomination in 2014. After the meeting, Mr. McConnell said he looked forward to supporting Mr. Powell's nomination as Fed chairman.

"I enjoyed our meeting and learning more about Jay's vision for the Federal Reserve and our nation's monetary policy as our economic recovery continues," Mr. McConnell said in a statement Tuesday.

Write to Kate Davidson at [email protected]

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