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Sanders confronts Tanden over past 'vicious attacks'

Neera TandenNeera TandenFive ways an obscure Senate ruling could change Washington 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet White House delays release of budget plan MORE, President BidenJoe BidenIRS to roll out payments for ,000 child tax credit in July Capitol Police told not to use most aggressive tactics in riot response, report finds Biden to accompany first lady to appointment for 'common medical procedure' MORE’s nominee to direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) who once referred to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Why does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Congress can protect sacred Oak Flat in Arizona from mining project MORE (I-Vt.) as “crazy,” faced him in a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday. 

Sanders, who is now chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, confronted Tanden on her past criticism in opening the hearing, calling her past attacks "vicious."

"My language and my expressions on social media caused hurt to people, and I feel badly about that. And I really regret it and I recognize that it's really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others," she told Sanders.

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Tanden, who if confirmed would take on a central policy role in the White House, faced critiques from both sides of the aisle in her second day of confirmation hearings.

Tanden had been a Senate aide and supporter of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhy does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Republican legislators target private sector election grants How Democrats can defy the odds in 2022 MORE before heading the Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank and already faced scrutiny for vitriolic rhetoric against Republicans, particularly on Twitter. She apologized to some of those Republicans on Tuesday in her first confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

But she also previously had tough words about Sanders, Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary rival.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Graham: 'A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous' MORE (R-S.C.), the committee’s ranking member, said those comments made her nomination a divisive one.

"Her scorn was not limited to Republicans,” he said, before reading one of Tanden’s Tweets: “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC's random internal e-mails did to help Hillary."

"The point I'm trying to make here is that in a time of unity, we're picking somebody with those sharp elbows, and there's going to be a consequence for that, hopefully on our side," he added.

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Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) added his own colorful flourish in his questioning.

"You called Sen. Sanders everything but an ignorant slut," he said.

Sanders did not shy away from addressing the issue himself, noting a letter from Republicans on the House Budget Committee compiling a litany of complaints against Tanden.

"I think most of us understand that we debate the issues and try to minimize the level of personal vicious attacks that seem to be so prevalent all over this country today," Sanders said.

"Of course, your attacks were not just made against Republicans. There were vicious attacks against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally," he added, before asking Tanden to “reflect” on her past rhetoric.

Tanden reiterated her regrets.

But Sanders’s criticism did not end there.

He also raised concerns about major corporate donations Tanden solicited as head of CAP, including from major banks and tech companies.

"Before I vote on your nomination it is important for me and members of this committee to know that those donations that you have secured at CAP will not influence your decisionmaking at the OMB," he said.

Tanden promised that those relationships would not impact her decisionmaking.

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Graham, for his part, came to Tanden’s defense on that point.

"Miss Tanden was receiving corporate donations, which is fine with me. I don't mind if you receive corporate donations as long as they're lawful and fully disclosed,” he said.

“I think all of us receive donations from different groups, that doesn't mean you're owned because somebody gives you money, so I'm not going to hold that against you."

In both hearings, Tanden received personal introductions from Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerCongressional Black Caucus members post selfie celebrating first WH visit in four years Black lawmakers press Biden on agenda at White House meeting The first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally MORE (D-N.J.), who vouched for Tanden’s abilities and spoke warmly of their friendship.

Tanden herself tried to soften her image by telling the story of her immigrant mother, whose reliance on social welfare programs helped her build a middle-class life, a story that resonated with Sanders.

"As the son of an immigrant, I understand some of what you are talking about,” Sanders said.

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Once Sanders dispensed with the tough talk at the hearing’s opening, he moved to show unity between progressives and the Biden administration, asking Tanden if she supporters a litany of progressive goals such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, making public college tuition free for low-income earners, providing free universal pre-K and mandating 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

Tanden answered each point in the affirmative.

Updated at 12:35 p.m.