Joe Biden drops Neera Tanden nomination amid bipartisan opposition in US Senate

During Tanden’s confirmation hearings, senators grilled her about her social media posts and her decision to delete more than 1,000 Twitter comments before appearing on Capitol Hill

The New York Times March 03, 2021 07:44:11 IST
Joe Biden drops Neera Tanden nomination amid bipartisan opposition in US Senate

Neera Tanden testifies at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington last month. By Anna Moneymaker © 2021 The New York Times

Washington: The White House on Tuesday abandoned its push to instal Neera Tanden as the director of President Joe Biden’s budget office after opposition from senators in both parties, making her nomination the first casualty of the evenly-split Senate.

In a statement, Biden said that he had accepted Tanden’s request to withdraw from consideration for the post but that he planned to find a place in his administration for her to serve in a different capacity.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel.”

He added: “She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”

The White House released a letter that Tanden wrote to Biden seeking to end her nomination and acknowledging the political opposition to her serving as the administration’s budget chief. She said that it “now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

Tanden, who was a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, had drawn bipartisan criticism for a prolific stream of vitriolic social media posts that lambasted lawmakers in both parties and for her work at a liberal think-tank. Biden selected her to direct the Office of Management and Budget before Democrats had won control of the Senate, surprising lawmakers and aides in both parties.

During Tanden’s confirmation hearings, senators grilled her about her social media posts and her decision to delete more than 1,000 Twitter comments before appearing on Capitol Hill. She apologised for the online venom, but it was clear that some senators were not inclined to disregard it.

Having clashed with Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who chairs the Budget Committee, and other progressives, Tanden also faced scrutiny for her comments attacking progressives and for corporate donations she had secured while she was in charge of the Centre for American Progress.

In the past 10 days, her nomination had teetered on the brink of collapse as centrist Democrats and Republicans — first Senator Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia, then Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, both Republicans — announced they would not back her. That imperiled Tanden’s margin for confirmation in the 50-50 Senate, leading two committees to abruptly postpone votes last week on advancing her nomination.

With at least one Republican needed to join all the Democrats, Republican leaders privately counseled their senators to remain united in opposition to Tanden. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a moderate Republican who was thought to be a potential supporter, had not publicly announced her position, but it was not clear that there would be enough Democrats behind Tanden to confirm her even if she had won Murkowski’s backing. The two met on Capitol Hill on Monday.

White House officials had remained adamant in their support for Tanden, who would have become the first woman of colour to lead the agency. They pointed to her qualifications as a policy expert and wide-ranging support, including from the US Chamber of Commerce and labor unions. Democrats also argued that Tanden was facing unfair scrutiny, particularly given that their Republican counterparts had spent years expressing no concern about the often offensive and racist posts made by former president Donald Trump.

But the administration ultimately concluded that Tanden could not be confirmed. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, had declined to address questions about fallback options, including Gene Sperling, a former National Economic Council director, and Ann O’Leary, former chief of staff to Governor Gavin Newsom of California.

House Democrats have pushed hard in recent days for the White House to scrap Tanden’s nomination and substitute Shalanda Young, the first Black woman to serve as the staff director for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee. She is Biden’s pick to be the No 2 at the budget agency.

Emily Cochrane and Michael D Shear c.2021 The New York Times Company

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