Tester Talks Importance of Independent Federal Reserve with Chairman Powell at Confirmation Hearing

Senator also questioned Fed Chair about the state and strength of the American economy; Senator’s work on the American Rescue Plan has led to lowest unemployment in Montana in 15 years

At today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s nomination for a second term leading the U.S. central bank, U.S. Senator Jon Tester spoke with Powell about the importance of having an independent Fed and about Powell’s commitment to resisting political pressure.

“Could you speak a little bit about the importance of the independence of the Fed?” Tester asked. “I remember pretty clearly the kind of pressure that was put on you by President Trump to try to politicize the Fed, and I commend you on keeping it independent. Could you talk about why that’s so important?”

“We work for all Americans and that’s what we do,” said Powell. “It’s essential that we do that without regard to political considerations like election cycles or particular political parties’ views on issues that are outside our mandate. We have to focus on the job Congress has given us which is maximum employment and price stability. And also the payments system and financial stability and other things. That’s what we need to do to justify our continued independence and we’re committed to doing that.”

Tester, a longtime supporter of Powell and advocate for his renomination, also asked Powell about the current state of the American economy and how the pandemic has affected it:

“The challenges that we’ve had because of this pandemic, it’s fair to say that the Federal Reserve has helped us get through this in a major, major way,” said Tester “…Could you compare the economy pre-pandemic, pandemic a year ago, and today and tell me where we’re at in relation to those three points in time?”

“We’re only beginning to see [how things are going to be different in the economy] because we’re not out of the pandemic. We’re a long way from out of the pandemic, potentially, so what are some of the things we’re seeing that are with us now,” responded Powell. “…We’re going to see people working remotely. The wage increases that we’re seeing are still very skewed to the lower end of the income spectrum, so there may be something happening there where wages are just going to be higher for people…it’s a market, right now, where labor is very short and workers have a lot of leverage, and that may persist.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tester has been fighting to cut costs for working families, create good-paying jobs, and make sure that Montana’s economy fully recovers from the crisis. He was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the American Rescue Plan, and he fought to secure approximately $1.37 billion for Montana state, county, and local governments to spur economic recovery through plugging revenue shortfalls, covering costs, and investing in qualifying infrastructure projects. Because of the success of the American Rescue Plan, Montana’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 15 years.

Tester worked diligently to ensure that Montana communities-big and small-had the targeted resources they need to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. He pushed to ensure that the American Rescue Plan included critical funding to get vaccines into the arms of every Montanan who wanted one, helped get individuals back to work faster, reopened schools sooner, and revived the economy as quick as possible. He also fought to ensure the package restored full service and reinstates furloughed employees to Amtrak’s Empire Builder Line, and provided more than $380 million to help Montana’s K-12 schools reopen safely and quickly.