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WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden named several women to his top economic policy team on Monday, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary nominee, setting the stage for diversity and a focus on recovery from the pandemic.

The advisers, several of whom would need to be approved by the U.S. Senate, come from liberal research organizations and worked in previous Democratic administrations. Their aim will be to set policies that can help people and businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 267,000 people in the United States and cost millions of jobs.

“This team looks like America and brings seriousness of purpose, the highest degree of competency, and unwavering belief in the promise of America,” Biden said in a statement. “They will be ready on day one to get to work for all Americans.”

Biden is expected to formally introduce the new economic team members on Tuesday, the transition team said.

Arizona and Wisconsin on Monday certified Biden as the winner in each state, further undermining President Donald Trump’s attempts to dispute his loss to Biden in the Nov. 3 election by making unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

The confirmation of vote counts is usually a mere formality but has taken on added significance this year in the face of Trump’s baseless allegations that the election was “rigged” in Biden’s favor.

Most of the battleground states that Biden won, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, previously certified their results. Together with the results from states where the outcome is not in dispute, Biden has secured enough votes in the state-by-state Electoral College to win the presidency.

Biden taps Yellen for Treasury, announces other members of economic team
The Trump campaign is pursuing long-shot legal cases that seek to overturn Biden’s victories in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, while others have been dismissed or withdrawn in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. None has scored significant gains for Trump.

PUSH FOR EARLY YELLEN HEARING
Yellen, 74, was head of the U.S. central bank from 2014 to 2018 and served as the chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

On Twitter, she underscored the challenges facing the United States: “To recover, we must restore the American dream — a society where each person can rise to their potential and dream even bigger for their children. As Treasury Secretary, I will work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all.”

Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said Yellen’s confirmation hearing should occur before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, as it did for Steven Mnuchin, the current Treasury secretary.

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“When millions of workers are unemployed through no fault of their own and sectors of the economy are struggling mightily, there is no excuse for delay,” Wyden said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who like many top Republicans in that chamber has not yet acknowledged Biden as president-elect, did not respond to questions about pre-inauguration hearings. His colleagues have signaled that Biden’s appointees may face a rough road to confirmation.

Control of the Senate – and the power to confirm or block Biden’s Cabinet appointees – will be determined by a pair of runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.

The Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. Biden has 306 electors, far more than the required 270, to Trump’s 232.

Biden said he would nominate Wally Adeyemo as Yellen’s deputy at Treasury. Adeyemo was a deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, and was later president of the Obama Foundation, which is overseeing planning for the Democratic former president’s library.

Neera Tanden, chief executive of the Center for American Progress think tank, would head the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden helped the Obama administration create the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare overhaul popularly known as Obamacare, which Republicans have tried to dismantle.

Republican senators voiced few concerns about Yellen, with Senator John Cornyn telling reporters he did not “have any problem with her.”

He was more concerned about Tanden, calling her the “worst nominee so far.” Cornyn’s communications director cited her “endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican senators whose votes she’ll need.” The Biden transition team had no immediate comment on the criticism.

“Neera Tanden is smart, experienced, and qualified for the position of OMB Director. The American people decisively voted for change – Mitch McConnell shouldn’t block us from having a functioning government that gets to work for the people we serve,” tweeted Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, a close Biden ally.

Tanden would be the first woman of color to lead the OMB if she is confirmed.

Biden selected Cecilia Rouse, an economist who is dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. She was a member of the council under Obama from 2009 to 2011.

Heather Boushey, an economist who is co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and is focused on economic inequality, will serve on the council.

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VIDEO: Biden administration faces lawsuit from Texas, Missouri

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Texas AG Ken Paxton tells newsmen that he believes the states will win in court and discusses the debate over reforming the Supreme Court.

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Border Crisis

Sen. Blackburn asks Biden admin why U.S. spending $284K per migrant family to keep them in hotels

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“The cost to taxpayers for housing 1,200 migrant families for six months is about $71,000 per person,” the Tennessee senator says.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn has done the math.

The Tennessee Republican’s interest was piqued after the Biden administration announced its intention to spend nearly $87 million to house 1,200 foreigners who illegally cross the border in hotel rooms in the U.S.

“As the current contract stands, the cost to taxpayers for housing 1,200 migrant families for six months is about $71,000 per person,” Blackburn wrote in a letter Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Tae Johnson. “For a family of four, that amounts to a shocking $284,000 – enough to buy a small house.”

Earlier this month, the administration awarded ICE an $86.9 million contract through Texas-based nonprofit Endeavors, which will provide hotel rooms near the border for temporary shelter. But Blackburn also questions how the group spends its money.

She said Endeavors in 2018 collected more than $38 million in contributions and grants but noted that “IRS filings show that nearly $22 million or almost half of those contributions went to salaries.”

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“This raises questions if half of the $86.9 million in ICE contract proceeds will likewise be allocated toward employee and executive compensation instead of migrant services or housing,” Blackburn wrote in her letter.

She also expressed concerns that Endeavors’ CEO Jon Allman has not provided “specific details about the contract.”

“It is unclear whether this nonprofit has ever previously managed a contract of this magnitude, housed a migrant population of this size or served vulnerable children without putting them at further risk,” Blackburn wrote. “DHS and ICE must provide commitments to assure Congress and the American public that Endeavors is up for the task of securely and efficiently housing illegal immigrants without resulting in waste or abuse of taxpayer dollars, or worse, harming vulnerable migrant children.”

Blackburn asked for answers by April 15.

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Border Crisis

Joe Biden: ‘I Don’t Care’ if Donald Trump Visits the Border

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President Joe Biden dismissed the news that former President Donald Trump is considering a visit to the southern border.

A reporter questioned Biden about the border crisis, and reports about Trump’s possible visit, as he returned to Washington from a weekend at his home in Delaware.

“We are putting in place a plan that I feel very confident about,” Biden replied. “And I don’t care what the other guy does.”

Biden did not answer a question about when he would make his own trip to visit the border.

Former President Trump confirmed he is interested in visiting the border to highlight Biden’s border crisis in the “next couple of weeks,” during an interview Saturday on Fox News.

“Thousands and thousands of people are coming up right now as we speak,” Trump said. “And you’re going to have millions of people pouring into our country. And it’s going to destroy our country.”

Biden continues struggling to manage the border crisis, despite publicly delegating Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday to lead the administration’s efforts to secure the border.

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But on Friday, Harris’s team clarified that the vice president “was not doing the border” but only leading the “diplomatic efforts” with Latin American countries to address the root causes of migration.

Both Biden and Harris refuse to commit to visiting the border, despite record numbers of unattended child migrants crossing into the U.S. and overwhelming Border Patrol detention facilities.

Despite the Biden administration repeatedly telling migrants the border is closed, the president makes it clear that unattended migrant children are not getting sent back.

“The only people we’re not going to let sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children,” Biden said during his press conference on Sunday.

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