Fed Chair Powell ramped up calls with Congress in November

FILE PHOTO: Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the Senate Banking Committee hearing on "The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2020. Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS

January 8, 2021

(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke with U.S. lawmakers more frequently in November than at any time since the early summer, including a call with Republican Senator Pat Toomey on Nov. 11, a federal holiday, Powell’s calendar published on Friday shows.

Graphic: Who you gonna call?, https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-FED/POWELL-CALENDAR/xklpyjabjvg/chart.png

Powell’s calendars do not give any details on what was discussed during any of 14 chats with lawmakers. But Toomey was a vocal opponent of extending the Fed’s emergency lending facilities set up jointly with the Treasury Department early in the pandemic.

Powell had wanted to keep the programs open to backstop an increasingly weaker-looking recovery. But a week after Powell’s call with Toomey, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin abruptly pulled the plug on most of them and demanded the return of funds earmarked for their use.

In December, Toomey led a successful effort to insert language into the $900 billion coronavirus aid package to prevent the programs from being easily restarted under the incoming Biden Administration.

Powell also held more than a dozen other calls during the month with Democrat and Republican members of Congress, who were at loggerheads at the time over fiscal relief that Powell had for months argued was needed to bolster the economy.

The Fed chair has made outreach to senators and members of Congress a key aspect of his tenure.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Andrea Ricci)