Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Congress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills MORE (R-Alaska), a key Senate swing vote, said Tuesday evening she never told the White House she would vote against Neera TandenNeera TandenBiden should seek some ideological diversity Conservatives target Biden pick for New York district court GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions MORE, President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE’s former nominee to serve as White House budget director, and appeared surprised by the news that the nomination had been withdrawn.
Murkowski also noted that White House officials never directly asked how she would vote.
“I never did, they never asked,” she said when asked if she ever told the White House how she would vote on the nominee.
Now she will be spared what could have been a difficult decision after she met with Tanden Monday and carefully walked the nominee through the various issues facing Alaska and the impact of Biden’s seven executive actions on her home state.
“Now it means I’m going to have to do the Alaska tutorial 101 all over again with whoever it is that they name because I need this person to understand our challenges,” she said of Biden’s next pick to head the budget office.
It’s possible that Tanden decided to withdraw her nomination because of additional opposition from Democrats such as centrist Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaManchin warns about inflation as Democrats pursue Biden spending bill Minimum tax proposal drives wedge between corporate interests Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-Ariz.) or skepticism from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale MORE (I-Vt.), who said last week that the nominee didn’t appear to have the votes to secure confirmation.
Tanden's nomination ran into serious trouble on Feb. 19 when Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin warns about inflation as Democrats pursue Biden spending bill Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families MORE (W.Va.), a key Democratic centrist, announced he would oppose her.
Democrats control a 50-50 Senate because Vice President Kamarla Harris has the tie-breaking vote.
As a result Democrats usually can't afford any defections but Biden officials had some hope last week that Murkowski could be persuaded to vote for Tanden to make up for Manchin's "no" vote.
But Tanden's nomination suffered another setback when the Senate Budget and Homeland Security Committees cancelled scheduled votes.
“It was kind of going that relation last week when they moved those two committee hearings,” Murkowski said of last week’s postponement of two committee meetings to vote on Tanden.
“I don’t think she thought she was going to be pulled,” Murkowski said, based on her conversation with the nominee during a sit-down meeting Monday.
Murkowski said she went into that meeting “with an open mind” and turned the session into “Alaska 101” in which they discussed issues ranging from why the Centers for Disease Control “was important for getting movement on a conditional no-sale order” to “every project that comes up with what we’re doing with murdered, missing and indigenous women.”
The Alaska senator said he gave Tanden “the courtesy of a conversation as I do with just about every nominee who asks for one.”
“She’s really a smart woman, I’ll tell you that,” she said of Tanden.
Asked if she asked the administration for any specific concessions such as on oil and gas drilling in Alaska, Murkowski said she has made extensive efforts to educate Biden administration officials and potential officials about the numerous federal land restrictions affecting her state.
“I show you the map about my roadless areas,” she said. “I go through all of the land management structure and say this is the challenge I have with my state right now,” noting the “pause” Biden has imposed on oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
But Murkowski said she didn’t ask for any quid pro quo or commitment from the White House in exchange for backing Tanden.
“If you’re asking [did I ask,] ‘If I do this, will you do that?’ No,’” she said.
Instead, Murkowski is walking nominees such as Tanden and Biden’s choice for attorney general, Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBiden Supreme Court study panel unanimously approves final report Lawmakers call for investigation into proposed AT&T WarnerMedia, Discovery merger Family asks for better treatment for Maxwell as trial stretches on MORE, through the issues facing her state and asking, “What can you do to help me?”
“We’ve got an industry that is really in a fragile position right now because of the administration’s executive orders,” she said of Biden’s orders on oil and gas drilling. “We need some focus, we need some attention.
“I said to Tanden, ‘Look the North Slope Area, this is called the National Petroleum Reserve for a reason. This is where we get x-percent of our revenues and walked her through many of the challenges we have,” she added.
Murkowski noted that Tanden “generated her own level of controversy” because of her leadership of the progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, and “the very public-focused tweets” in which she criticized senators, sometimes harshly.
But the GOP senator said she wasn’t going to automatically dismiss the nominee.
“I said, no … I think it’s important to talk to her,” she said.
Tanden informed Biden in a letter Tuesday that she is withdrawing her nomination. She said she didn’t speak directly to Biden or White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainNew variant raises questions about air travel mandates White House scrambles for safety on holiday parties The massive messaging miscues of all the president's men (and women) MORE about Tanden.
“I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation. Unfortunately, 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,” she wrote.