WASHINGTON — President Biden said Monday that he would renominate Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, to another four-year term, opting for policy continuity at a moment of rapid inflation and economic uncertainty and betting that the Fed will do more to help workers reap the gains of the pandemic recovery.
The much-awaited decision was a return to tradition in which the central bank’s top official is reappointed regardless of partisan identity — a norm bucked by former President Donald J. Trump, who appointed Mr. Powell instead of renominating Janet L. Yellen.
While some progressive Democrats criticized Mr. Powell’s reappointment, the move was primarily greeted with bipartisan praise that suggested an easy path to confirmation.
Mr. Biden also said he planned to nominate Lael Brainard, a Fed governor whom many progressive groups had championed to replace Mr. Powell, to serve as the Fed’s vice chair, a move that helped mollify some criticism on the left.
The president and his top aides believe that Mr. Powell has done well in supporting the economy through the pandemic recession and a halting recovery, while amassing credibility by standing up to political pressure from Mr. Trump. But Mr. Biden is also making a calculated bet that the Fed chair will be more aligned with his views on the economy and, in particular, inflation, than he is with Republicans in the Senate who have demanded quicker action from the Fed to tamp down rising prices.
“At this moment, of both enormous potential and enormous uncertainty for our economy we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House. “And we need people of character and integrity, who can be trusted to keep their focus on the right long-term goals of our country, for our country.”
The stakes in the choice are unusually high.
Inflation has jumped because of booming consumer demand, tangled supply lines and labor shortages that have helped to push up the cost of used cars, couches and even food and rent. Yet millions of workers are missing from the labor market compared with before the pandemic.
The central bank is charged with keeping consumer prices stable while striving for maximum employment, and striking that balance could require difficult policy choices in the months ahead.
Mr. Biden, who is facing a delicate balancing act within his own party, deliberated over the pick for months. He consulted with both progressive and moderate Democrats along the way, seeking their views on inflation, worker considerations, financial regulation and climate change policy at the Fed.
That included Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had called Mr. Powell “a dangerous man,” and suggested she would not support his renomination during a testy hearing in late September. Mr. Biden met with Ms. Warren on Nov. 9 in the Oval Office to discuss Fed appointments and called her last Thursday, before he had settled on a pick, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.
On Friday, Mr. Biden called Mr. Powell and Ms. Brainard to inform them that he had made his choice. The decision was influenced in large part by Mr. Biden’s belief that he and Mr. Powell are philosophically aligned when it comes to keeping interest rates low and continuing to support the economy until more people are working and wages are rising.
On Monday, Mr. Biden said he believed the Fed had more work to do to get to “maximum employment.”
“That’s an economy where companies have to compete to attract workers, instead of workers competing with each other for jobs, where American workers get steady wage increases after decades of stagnation, and where the benefits of economic growth are broadly shared by everyone in the country, not just concentrated for those at the top,” he said.
Yet some economists, and many Republicans, say the Fed runs the risk of allowing inflation to spin out of control if it does not start to pull back efforts to fuel economic growth, with workers demanding increasingly higher wage increases to cover rising costs, resulting in 1970s-style inflation.
Mr. Biden has been suffering politically as prices rise for food, gas and airplane tickets. The president has repeatedly tried to reassure Americans that his economic policies will ultimately calm inflation, a message he is expected to repeat during remarks on Tuesday.
But his larger economic agenda has become tangled in the politics of price increases, particularly as the president pushes Senate Democrats to coalesce around a $2.2 trillion climate change and social policy bill that Mr. Biden says will ease inflationary pressures in years to come but Republicans warn will stoke higher prices immediately.
Mr. Biden said he was certain that both Mr. Powell and Ms. Brainard would work to stabilize inflation and keep the economic recovery on track.
“We’re in a position to attack inflation from the position of strength, not weakness,” he said.
Mr. Powell, who appeared alongside the president and Ms. Brainard at the White House, acknowledged the challenge ahead.
“We know that high inflation takes a toll on families, especially those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing and transportation,” he said, adding that the Fed would “use our tools both to support the economy and a strong labor market and to prevent higher inflation from becoming entrenched.”
Mr. Powell’s reappointment suggests that the White House, which has a chance to fully reshape the Fed, is not aiming to completely overhaul the institution.
The Biden administration already has one vacant governor role to fill, and two more seats will open early next year, giving Mr. Biden room to appoint at least three of seven governors. The president must also fill several leadership roles, including the Fed’s vice chair for supervision, a powerful position given its influence on bank oversight.
Mr. Biden has been under pressure from progressives and moderate Democrats to pick a diverse slate of leaders for the Fed who would prioritize tough bank regulation and do what they could to address climate change risks in the financial system.
Mr. Powell has faced opposition from some progressive Democrats, who have faulted him for not using the Fed’s tools to help combat climate change and for voting to loosen financial rules for the nation’s biggest banks.
He has also come under criticism for an ethics scandal that took place while he was overseeing the central bank. Two of the Fed’s 12 regional presidents made significant financial trades for their private accounts in 2020, when the Fed was actively rescuing many markets from pandemic fallout.
Mr. Biden tried to ease at least some of those concerns, saying that Mr. Powell had assured him that the Fed would “accelerate” efforts to address and mitigate the risk that climate change poses to the economy.
Mr. Biden also said he planned to soon nominate a new vice chair for supervision. In conversations with Mr. Biden, Mr. Powell convinced the president he would follow the lead of that person in setting financial regulatory policy, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Whether that will be enough to appease Mr. Powell’s critics remains to be seen. Ms. Warren said in a statement on Monday that she would not vote for Mr. Powell’s confirmation. Still, she did not recount her litany of concerns about him.
Another critic, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who opposed Mr. Powell’s reappointment, said on Monday that was “disappointed” in Mr. Biden’s decision. But he did not say whether he would vote no on his nomination.
“I sincerely hope that, if confirmed, Powell will reassess his past opposition to utilizing the Fed’s regulatory tools to minimize climate-related risks to the financial sector,” he said.
Other Democrats were more supportive, including Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who praised Mr. Powell for helping steer the economy through the pandemic. Mr. Brown’s position is important — he is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the Fed and will handle the confirmation hearings for both Mr. Powell and Ms. Brainard.
Republicans, who supported Mr. Powell when he was nominated as chair by Mr. Trump, also lauded Mr. Biden’s decision.
Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania and the ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, released a statement saying he would support Mr. Powell’s nomination, as did several other of his party’s senators. That full-throated support did not extend to Ms. Brainard, however, with Mr. Toomey and other Republicans saying they had some concerns about her views on financial regulation and other issues.
The big challenge ahead for Mr. Powell is deciding when — and how quickly — to remove pandemic-era economic support that the central bank has been using to cushion workers, businesses and financial markets.
The Fed has so far decided to slow its large bond-purchase program, a first step toward withdrawing monetary policy support that will leave it more nimble to raise interest rates next year if reining in the economy becomes necessary.
The federal funds rate has been set to near-zero since March 2020, keeping many types of borrowing cheap and helping to fuel home and car purchases and other types of demand that in turn set the stage for strong hiring. Raising it could cool off growth and weaken inflation.
Yet trying to slow price gains would come at a cost. Workers are still trickling back after severe job losses at the onset of the pandemic, and the Fed is hoping to give the job market more space and time to heal. That’s especially true because continued waves of infection may be keeping many people from searching for work, either out of health concerns or because they lack child care.