“We urge President Biden to reimagine a Federal Reserve focused on eliminating climate risk and advancing racial and economic justice,” the lawmakers said in a statement Tuesday morning.
In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, the statement was issued Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Mondaire Jones of New York and Chuy Garcia of Illinois, all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Powell, a Republican and former investment banker, was nominated to lead the powerful Federal Reserve by former President Donald Trump in 2017, who later sharply criticized his handpicked chairman. Powell’s term as chair expires in February, and the White House has not said whether he will be reappointed.
Under Powell, the Fed wasted little time responding forcefully to the economic fallout from the pandemic in March 2020. Economists have credited the Fed’s historic actions with helping to prevent a full-blown depression and financial crisis in the United States.
The Fed is tasked by Congress to maximize the number of American jobs while keeping inflation low. Although the Democrats in the statement credited the Powell-led Fed with making changes to how it approaches its goal of full employment, they voiced concern over his track record on the climate crisis and regulation.
“Under his leadership the Federal Reserve has taken very little action to mitigate the risk climate change poses to our financial system,” the lawmakers said in the statement.
However, the Fed did join an international network of global financial regulators focused on climate change in late 2020. In June, Powell warned the climate crisis poses “profound challenges for the global economy and certainly the financial system.”
The AOC-led statement also criticized the Fed for “weakening” financial regulations enacted after the Great Recession, including capital and liquidity requirements, stress tests and the Volcker Rule. Powell has previously disputed the argument that the Fed has weakened regulations.
The Fed chair is appointed by the president. The term lasts four years. Looking for continuity, former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama reappointed Fed chairs that were appointed by previous presidents, both of whom were Republicans. But Trump did not reappoint Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who was appointed by Obama.
A White House official told CNN on Tuesday that when it comes to appointing Fed officials, Biden “will appoint the candidates who he thinks will be the most effective in implementing monetary policy.”
The Federal Reserve declined to comment.