Senate confirms Jefferson, fourth Black man to join Fed board

Jefferson returns to Fed and to the city where he grew up

Philip Jefferson, confirmed by the Senate Wednesday, returns to the Fed and to the city where he grew up.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Philip Jefferson, confirmed by the Senate Wednesday, returns to the Fed and to the city where he grew up. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
CQ Roll Call staff writer Caitlin Reilly (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted May 11, 2022 at 7:51pm

The Senate voted 91-7 on Wednesday to confirm Philip Jefferson as a member of the Federal Reserve Board, making him the fourth Black man to join the body.

Jefferson, an economics professor and vice president for academic affairs at Davidson College in North Carolina, received strong bipartisan Senate support after the Senate Banking Committee voted unanimously in March to advance his nomination. 

"Dr. Philip Jefferson is one of the country's leading thinkers on the economics of poverty. He'll be a key voice on the Fed as it tackles inflation,” Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said on the floor.

Brown also noted that it would be the first time in the Fed's history two Black governors served on the board at the same time. Jefferson will join Lisa Cook, whom the Senate confirmed Tuesday as the first Black woman to join the Fed board.

[Senate confirms Lisa Cook as the first Black woman on the Federal Reserve Board]

Jefferson secured strong support among Republicans, even as the party staged opposition to other Fed nominees put forward by White House. 

The boycott by Senate Banking Republicans in protest of Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to be Fed vice chair for supervision held up votes on Jefferson and other Fed nominees, including acting Chairman Jerome Powell. 

For Jefferson, the confirmation marks a return both to the Fed and to the city where he grew up. 

“The Capitol is a mere 25 blocks from the row house where I grew up,” Jefferson said at his February confirmation hearing. “The neighborhood is called Kingman Park, and in my youth, it was a place where the line between a future of success or struggle was thin.”

His first job after graduating from Vassar College was as a research assistant to the Fed board. Jefferson spent much of his career in academia. Before joining Davidson, he taught at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania from 1997 to 2019.

Jefferson’s confirmation leaves the Fed board one short of its full seven members. Michael Barr, a former Treasury official President Joe Biden nominated last month to be Fed vice chair for supervisions, still awaits a confirmation hearing and vote in the Senate.  

Jefferson’s term expires in 2036.