Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief
Neera Tanden has withdrawn her nomination to head President Biden’s White House budget office after her prospects of Senate confirmation flamed out.
The White House made the announcement on Tuesday evening, capping a tumultuous few weeks surrounding the fight over her nomination.
Tanden, who would have been the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), faced scrutiny over mean tweets she had written about Republicans and progressive Democrats alike in her previous role heading the Center for American Progress think tank.
“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”
Tanden is Biden’s first Cabinet nominee to be withdrawn from consideration, making this an early blow for the president. The White House spent the past two weeks insisting there was a path to confirmation for Tanden and vowed to fight for her, even as her prospects dimmed.
Tanden is expected to be appointed to an administration role that does not require Senate confirmation.
A handful of names have circulated as potential replacements for Tanden. Shalanda Young, who on Wednesday underwent a confirmation hearing to be the deputy OMB director, is seen as the most likely nominee.
In her controversial tweets, many of which were deleted in recent months, Tanden compared Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to Voldemort and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to a vampire and insinuated that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) benefited from Russian hacking in the 2016 election.
In two confirmation hearings, she repeatedly apologized for the tweets and promised to strike a more collegial tone as a member of the administration.
Her nomination began to unravel when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) pulled his support, citing the need for comity. In the evenly divided Senate, that left Tanden reliant on support from centrist Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who also was a target of Tanden’s tweets. That support was not forthcoming.
Tanden met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) this week in a last-ditch bid by the White House to attract Republican support for her nomination that would be necessary to overcome Manchin’s “no” vote.
Murkowski seemed surprised by the news and said Tuesday evening that she had not yet made up her mind about whether to support Tanden. The White House, she said, had not consulted her before pulling the nomination.
“They never asked,” she said.
“Now, it means that I’m going to have to do the Alaska tutorial 101 all over again with whoever it is that they name,” she said, referring to her Monday meeting with Tanden.
Sanders and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also had not definitively said how they would vote on Tanden, meaning her nomination could have been doomed even with a “yes” from Murkowski.
Tanden’s defenders said scuttling her nomination dripped of hypocrisy, noting that many of the senators who opposed her had gladly voted for sharp-tongued nominees such as Richard Grenell as U.S. ambassador to Germany despite derogatory comments about women’s appearances and Jeff Sessions as attorney general despite comments on race that scuttled his nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986.
They also pointed to regular GOP support for former President Trump despite his ongoing habit of incendiary rhetoric, through tweets and otherwise, which demeaned rivals as “crazy,” “little,” “crooked,” “low IQ” and other epithets, including racial ones such as “Pocahontas.”
Some Democrats have also noted that the Biden nominees facing the greatest level of scrutiny are people of color, including Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), the nominee to lead the Interior Department, and Xavier Becerra, the nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.
“Is there a pattern here??? Hope they’re using the same standard and not moving goal posts for only certain nominees,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) tweeted after Manchin came out against the Tanden nomination.
Some senators have already voiced support for Young should she be tapped to lead the agency. Young testified on Tuesday before the Senate Budget Committee.
“You’ll get my support, maybe for both jobs,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) quipped during the hearing.
In the meantime, the budget office will remain without a confirmed leader. Press secretary Jen Psaki previously said the release of Biden’s first budget proposal will likely be delayed due to the delay in transition from the Trump administration.
Updated: 7:30 p.m.