Joe Biden names Neera Tanden as White House budget chief; 20 other Indian-Americans in transition team

Tanden, 50, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman of colour and first Indian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget

FP Staff December 01, 2020 15:38:36 IST
Joe Biden names Neera Tanden as White House budget chief; 20 other Indian-Americans in transition team

File image of Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress. AP

US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday nominated Indian-American Neera Tanden as Director of Office of Management and Budget, as he announced key members of his economic team.

Tanden, 50, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman of colour and first Indian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

A former adviser to Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Tanden, however, faces criticism from conservatives and progressives alike that could jeopardise her chances of confirmation by the Senate.

President and CEO of the left-leaning think tank Centre for American Progress (CAP), and the CEO of the American Progress Action Fund, Tanden's career has focused on pursuing policies designed to support working families, foster broad-based economic growth, and curb rampant inequality.

As per The Wall Street Journal, her nomination is part of the Biden administration's plan to build a team of liberal and centrist economic advisors.

On her Twitter profile, Tanden describes herself as, "President of @amprog-Center for American Progress, liberal, Indian American, feminist, mom, wife. Not in that order."

Under Trump administration, the position of the budget chief is held by Russell Vought, who has previously served as the Deputy Director and Acting Director before he was confirmed as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in July this year.

Position of Budget chief:

The OMB serves the President of the United States in overseeing the implementation of his vision across the Executive Branch.

Specifically, OMB's mission is to assist the President in meeting his policy, budget, management and regulatory objectives and to fulfil the agency's statutory responsibilities.

OMB with 530 staff is the largest office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It produces the budget the President submits to Congress and then oversees compliance with the programs and policies.

"Another proud day for Indian Americans to see Neera Tanden be nominated for a Cabinet-level position in the next administration. This position at OMB is a wide-ranging role with broad powers to manage trillions of dollars of the US budget. If anyone had any doubts that our community has arrived politically, this election cycle is proof enough," Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami, and an eminent philanthropist and venture capitalist, told PTI.

Announcing key members of his economic team, Joe Biden also named Wally Adeyemo, as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, as members of the Council of Economic Advisers. Biden would formally introduce his team on Tuesday.

The president-elect named a 500-member transition team, including more than 20 Indian-Americans, as Democrats attempted to shame defeated President Donald Trump out of the White House.

Other Indian-origin members of the Agency Review Teams (ARTs) include:

1) Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the USA, is on several ARTs, including Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. He will co-chair a task force on the coronavirus pandemic with David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

2) Arun Majumdar from California's Stanford University is the team lead for the Department of Energy ART.

"He has to be the front-runner if Joe Biden is looking for a politically savvy technical expert to lead the agency," said Jeff Navin, a co-founder and partner at Boundary Stone Partners, a Washington-based government affairs and communications firm.

3) Dr Rahul Gupta, A former state health officer for West Virginia is leading the transition over the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

4) Kiran Ahuja, an American lawyer and activist who served as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the US Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017, has been named Team Lead for Office of Personnel Management.

5) Puneet Talwar, former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs in 2014-15 was top Middle East advisor to Barack Obama, playing a central role in the backchannel diplomacy that produced the Iran nuclear deal. Talwar has been named to the Department of State ART.

6) Arun Venkatraman has been named to two ARTs, Department of Commerce and US Trade Representative Office.

Other prominent Indian Americans named to ARTs are Pravina Raghavan, Atman Trivedi for Department of Commerce and Shital Shah for Department of Education; R Ramesh and Rama Zakaria for the Department of Energy; Subhasri Ramanathan for the Department of Homeland Security; Raj De for Department of Justice; and Seema Nanda and Raj Nayak for Department of Labour.

Reena Aggarwal and Satyam Khanna have been named to the Federal Reserve, Banking and Securities Regulators ARTs; Bhavya Lal for NASA; Dilpreet Sidhu for National Security Council, Divya Kumaraiah for Office of Management and Budget; Kumar Chandran for Department of Agriculture; and Aneesh Chopra to US Postal Service. Almost all of them are volunteers.

Once the GSA Administrator ascertains the results of the election, the ART members will work directly with staff in federal agencies to ensure that the incoming Biden-Harris administration is able to effectively achieve the policy goals of the President and Vice President-elect.

The Biden transition team said the agency review teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, "but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America's most urgent and complex challenges."

With inputs from agencies

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