Administration

Klain on Manchin’s objection to Neera Tanden: He ‘doesn’t answer to us at the White House’

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said he “respects” Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) right to oppose the nomination of Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget amid increasing signs she won’t be confirmed in the Senate. 

Manchin, as well as a number of centrist Republicans, have come out against Tanden’s nomination over past tweets offering fiery criticism of senators on both sides of the aisle, saying confirming her would diminish President Biden’s calls for bipartisanship and civility.

“He is a senator who does believe we need to have more civility, more cooperation between the parties, that’s his objection to Neera Tanden. I obviously disagree with him, I think Neera would actually add to that dialogue in Washington, I actually think she’d do a good job. Notwithstanding the tweets, her history of her work shows that,” Klain said on MSNBC.

“But look, Sen. Manchin, he doesn’t answer to us at the White House. He answers to the people of West Virginia. He believes this is the right vote for him,” he added. “I respect Joe Manchin’s right to cast these votes. He’s an independent-minded senator, that’s what he’s going to do. We at the White House, we’re going to make our case to him and all the other Democrats and Republicans in the Senate on these key votes.” 

The tepid praise for Manchin comes after the West Virginia Democrat, who’s long cultivated a reputation for having an independent streak, said he would oppose Tanden’s nomination. A number of other Republican swing votes soon followed.

While the White House disagrees with Manchin over his vote on Tanden, Klain noted that it still needs to maintain a positive relationship with the senator to help advance its other priorities, including a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour that Manchin opposes.

“We obviously disagree, but we’ve been fortunate to have his support on other nominations obviously, we’re obviously working hard to get his support for the American Rescue Plan,” Klain said.

In a 50-50 Senate, Tanden now needs at least one Republican to vote to confirm her, an increasingly tough ask as centrist Republicans say she’s lost their support.

In some of the past tweets that have drawn rebukes, Tanden compared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to Voldemort. In another, she said that vampires had more heart than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). She has called Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) “the worst” and referred to then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as “criminally ignorant.”

Tanden has recently apologized for the tweets.

The White House has thus far stuck by Tanden, dismissing speculation Wednesday that it was considering backup options should her nomination fail.

“Well, there’s one nominee to lead the budget department; her name is Neera Tanden, and that’s who we’re continuing to fight for,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

Tags Jeff Flake Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell Neera Tanden Office of Management and Budget Ron Klain Susan Collins Ted Cruz
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