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Biden's choice to lead Federal Reserve is his last big to-do item before Thanksgiving break

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell listens during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Dec. 1, 2020.
Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell listens during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Dec. 1, 2020.Susan Walsh / Pool via Reuters

WASHINGTON — After the House’s passage of the Democrats’ $1.7 trillion social safety net/climate bill on Friday, there’s one big item left on President Biden’s to-do list before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Pick a nominee for Federal Reserve chair.

“President Biden faces one of the most important economic policy decisions of his presidency, which is expected this week, when deciding who should lead the Federal Reserve when Chairman Jerome Powell’s term expires in February,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Biden has signaled he is looking for continuity in Fed policy because he is considering whether to reappoint Mr. Powell for a second four-year term or elevate governor Lael Brainard, who has strongly backed the central bank’s interest rate policy over the past four years.”

The Powell-vs.-Brainard pick has turned into an ideological debate.

“Progressive Democrats prefer Ms. Brainard for her tough stance on regulating Wall Street. She believes the Fed should require banks to factor in climate-related developments when they assess balance sheet risks,” Sarah Binder and Mark Spindel write in the New York Times.

Centrist Democrats and Republicans want Powell. “I think Jerome Powell has a proven track record and Chairman Powell should get reappointed,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

If you go back to Biden’s rhetoric from his inaugural address – the talk of unity and lowering the political temperature in Washington – then Powell becomes the obvious pick.

But if the president feels like it’s more important than ever to placate progressives – especially if Joe Manchin is probably going to get his way in crafting the final changes to the “Build Back Better” bill – then Brainard makes sense.

Yet maybe the central question to ask here is: Does Biden really want a confirmation fight, especially one over inflation and the state of the economy?

That would likely be the outcome of a Brainard pick. While Powell would probably avoid a confirmation battle.

Today, Biden travels to Ft. Bragg, N.C., to celebrate “Friendsgiving” with service members and their families. And tomorrow, he is expected to deliver remarks on the economy.

'Build Back Better' moves to the Senate

On Friday, House Democrats passed their $1.7 trillion social safety net/climate legislation, which now heads to the Senate.

And NBC’s Sahil Kapur looks at four provisions that the upper chamber is most likely to change from the House bill.

Eliminating paid leave

“The House-passed legislation includes four weeks of guaranteed paid family and medical leave, a high priority of many Democrats, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would cost $205 billion,” Kapur writes.

The problem? Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., believes it will add to the debt and wants Congress to consider it in a bipartisan manner.

The SALT deductions

The House bill raises the deduction limit for state and local taxes (SALT) from $10,000 to $80,000, which critics view as a giveaway to the wealthy.

Still, Kapur adds, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., supports raising the limit, “and the Senate may have to approve some expansion of the deduction to get the bill to Biden's desk.”


Enter the Senate parliamentarian. “The House bill would grant provisional work permits to about 6.5 million undocumented people in the U.S., under a process known as parole, at a cost of more than $100 billion over a decade, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office,” per Kapur.

But there are real doubts that the Senate parliamentarian will rule that the immigration provision complies with Senate budget rules. The parliamentarian has already “rejected two previous immigration provisions by Democrats that would offer a path to citizenship, which the House bill policy wouldn't guarantee.”

Will Medicare benefits go – or be expanded?

Kapur notes that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., successfully got the House bill to add hearing benefits to Medicare. But Sanders also wants Medicare to cover dental and vision benefits, too.

But others believe the benefits cost too much and are a lower priority than other provisions in the bill.

Tweet of the day: Tragedy in Wisconsin

Welch makes it official

A week ago, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. – the longest-serving current U.S. senator – announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.

And today – seven days after that announcement – Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., the state’s sole congressman, released a video declaring his bid for the Senate seat.

"I'm Peter Welch, and I'm running for the United States Senate to work for you, for Vermont, for our country, and for our imperiled democracy,” he says in the video.

And he raises the possibility of Republicans winning this seat. “[A]n open seat could be the difference between passing our positive agenda and Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate once again. The Senate hangs in the balance.”

That said, Welch so far is the most formidable candidate to enter the race, especially after Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he wouldn’t run.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., released a statement this morning endorsing Welch.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

17: The number of House Democrats who are retiring or seeking higher office (including two more this weekend, retiring Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for Senate).

44 percent: The portion of non-parents between the ages of 18-49 who say that they are not likely to have a child someday, an increase from 2018, per a new Pew report.

47,751,936: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 212,097 more since Friday morning.)

774,008: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,440 more since Friday morning.)

451,453,834: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 5,203,492 more since Friday morning.)

35,393,770: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 2,923,889 since Friday morning.)

59.1 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

70.9 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Rising Covid cases ahead of the holidays, along with flu and RSV cases, have experts concerned about another dangerous holiday surge.

The Biden administration is spending almost $10 billion on new Covid treatments to try to blunt a potential new surge.

Iranian and other international diplomats are slated to restart discussions about Iran’s nuclear program later this month, with the U.S. on the sidelines.

The Washington Post has new reporting on internal Facebook documents that show its struggle to police hate speech about minorities.