Sanders confronts Tanden over past ‘vicious attacks’

Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) who once referred to Sen. Bernie Sanders (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.

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 Clinton 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 Graham (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.

Sen. John Kennedy (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.

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 Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (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.

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.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Hillary Clinton Joe Biden John Kennedy Lindsey Graham Neera Tanden Neera Tanden Office of Management and Budget
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