WASHINGTON — Nearly every living economist who led the White House Council of Economic Advisers in a Republican administration — including the three chairs under President Donald J. Trump — signed a letter urging Congress to confirm President Biden’s new nominee to lead the council, Jared Bernstein.
The letter, obtained by The New York Times, praises Mr. Bernstein for engaging with economists across ideological lines and for his work drafting the original proposal for the opportunity zones program that was included in the 2017 tax package that Mr. Trump signed into law.
The Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Mr. Bernstein’s nomination on Tuesday. Democrats had worried about his chances of clearing a committee vote after Senator John Fetterman, Democrat of Pennsylvania, was hospitalized in February for treatment of depression. They had stepped up efforts to court Republican senators to support Mr. Bernstein. Mr. Fetterman has since returned to work in the Senate.
Mr. Bernstein has been a member of the council since the start of Mr. Biden’s administration. The president tapped him to succeed Cecilia Rouse, who stepped down at the end of last month to return to her post at Princeton University. Before then, Mr. Bernstein was an adviser to Mr. Biden when he was the vice president, a longtime fixture at liberal think tanks in Washington and a frequent sparring partner with conservative economists on cable news.
He also worked with Kevin Hassett, a conservative economist who went on to head the council under Mr. Trump, to draft a white paper for the Economic Innovation Group think tank about a novel effort meant to steer investment to impoverished parts of the United States. Those were the so-called opportunity zones, which were included in the 2017 tax law.
- Free Trade: Under President Biden, the United States has declined to pursue new free-trade agreements with other countries. That approach has now become a major headache for the administration.
- Preparing for 2024: President Biden is sharpening his message ahead of an expected re-election bid, warning that a strong economy could be weakened under Republican leadership.
- Defending Democracy: The Biden administration’s defense of global democracies is being tested by a political crisis in Israel and setbacks to democracy in other countries closely allied with the United States.
The program designates areas in every state where investors in real estate, operating businesses or other projects are eligible for significant tax advantages, including potentially not having to pay capital gains taxes on profits from their investments in those areas.
Republicans have championed the zones since the law was passed. Some critics, including in Washington think tanks, have criticized them for delivering investments to some areas that were already gentrifying rapidly. Recent research has shown a widening share of zones attracting investment in the years since they were established.
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Mr. Hassett, who spearheaded the letter to members of the Banking Committee on Mr. Bernstein’s behalf, and his fellow former heads of the council cited the idea for the zones as one example of Mr. Bernstein’s outside-the-box thinking on economics.
Mr. Bernstein has “established a reputation for producing informative, data-driven analysis and developing creative policy ideas,” the former heads of the council wrote.
Along with Mr. Hassett, two other acting heads of the council under Mr. Trump signed the letter: Tomas Phillipson and Tyler Goodspeed. Other signatories included Michael J. Boskin, who led the council under President George H.W. Bush, and three chairs under President George W. Bush: Ben S. Bernanke, N. Gregory Mankiw and R. Glenn Hubbard.
Mr. Hassett said he had been unable to reach the only other living past chair of the council under a Republican, Alan Greenspan, to ask him to sign the letter.
In an interview, Mr. Hassett praised Mr. Bernstein’s collegiality and suggested that he would continue a bipartisan tradition of council chairs seeking advice from their predecessors from both political parties.
“I disagree with Jared about a lot, and Jared and I have been disagreeing about things for 20 years,” Mr. Hassett said. “But he really is a fundamentally good person who tries to figure things out with an open mind, and who changes his mind.”