Neera Tanden Nomination Delivers First Blow to Biden Administration

By: Nikita Vandrangi — Political Editor

On November 30, 2020, Neera Tanden was nominated by then President-elect Joe Biden to lead the United States Office of Management and Budget. 

The OMB is the largest agency within the Executive Office of the President of the United States, and it’s responsible for implementing the President’s vision across all federal agencies. The Director of the OMB reports directly to the President, the Vice President, and the White House Chief of Staff—President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Ronald Klain. The OMB is a significant player in the President’s budget proposal to Congress; it oversees and coordinates the budget priorities of all federal agencies. Additionally, it manages all administrative measures of the federal agencies: paperwork, financials, regulatory policies, information, etc. 

Neera Tanden was born to Indian immigrant parents in Bedford, Massachusetts. Her parents divorced at a young age, and she and her mother lived on food stamps and welfare during her childhood. She later attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and then received a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. 

Tanden has been closely associated with Clintons for most of her political career. She served as Associate Director for Domestic Policy in the Clinton Administration, playing a role in President Clinton’s new energy policies and health care reform. Additionally, Tanden was Domestic Policy Advisor to First Lady Hillary Clinton during this time. In 1999 and 2000, she was Deputy Campaign Manager for Hillary Clinton’s senatorial run in New York, later becoming Clinton’s Legislative Director from 2003 to 2005. Tanden was Policy Director during Clinton’s 2008 presidential run, and Domestic Policy Advisor to the Obama campaign in the general election. 

In the Obama Administration, Tanden was a senior advisor to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and she was instrumental in the development of the Affordable Care Act. Tanden was an unpaid advisor on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and was a part of the transition team after Clinton received the Democratic nomination. In April of 2020, New Hampshire Governor Phil Murphy named her a part of his Restart and Recovery Commission for COVID-19. 

Tanden is currently the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank providing research and advocacy for economic and social issues. She helped found the institution in 2003, serving then as both Senior Vice President for Domestic Policy and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. Tanden later became the Chief Operating Officer in 2010, before assuming her current post in 2011. Since 2016, the institution has focused on anti-Trump efforts and positioned itself in the center of the Democratic healthcare debate. The center proposed a healthcare plan, Medicare Extra for All, which builds on the Affordable Care Act and keeps the public option. 

However, Tanden’s nomination has come under intense scrutiny due to the combative and controversial nature of her political past. Tanden has taken to Twitter on more than several occasions over the past few years to express partisan opinions. She tweeted that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was “the worst,” called Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) a “fraud,” equated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to a “vampire,” and referred to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “Moscow Mitch” and “Voldemort.” 

Tanden deleted thousands of her past tweets upon her nomination in November of 2020. 

During her recent confirmation hearings in early February, when grilled by Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) about her comments, Tanden apologized saying, “I deeply regret my comments, and I feel badly about them.” 

When asked by Sen. Kennedy if she meant them, Tanden simply repeated her statements of remorse.  

Tanden has also come under fire from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party after butting heads with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Many of Sanders’ supporters have pointed to Tanden’s past support for cutting funding for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as cause for concern, as well as her general opposition to Medicare for All. 

Sen. Sanders has stayed quiet about his plans to vote on Tanden’s nomination, but other progressive Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have expressed support for Tanden. 

The White House has remained enthusiastic about Tanden’s nomination, with White Press Secretary Jen Psaki stating that the administration will “keep fighting” for Tanden. 

The White House does not appear to publicly be looking into other candidates for the post, and White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain has stated that if Tanden’s confirmation falls through, she will be appointed to another role in the administration that does not require Senate approval. 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) came out in opposition to Tanden’s confirmation, delivering a swift blow to Democrats. “I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. For this reason, I cannot support her nomination,” said Manchin. 

Sen. Collins, a moderate member of the GOP, released a statement in late February, announcing she will not vote to confirm Tanden’s nomination. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency. Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend,” said Collins.

“In addition, Ms. Tanden’s decision to delete more than a thousand tweets in the days before her nomination was announced raises concerns about her commitment to transparents. Should Congress need to review documents or actions taken by the OMB, we must have confidence that the Director will be forthcoming,” Collins added.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a potential swing vote, announced he would vote against the nomination. “Senator Romney has been critical of extreme rhetoric from prior nominees, and this is consistent with that position. He believes it’s hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets,” Romney’s office said in a statement. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), another typical swing vote in the Senate, remains a wild card, as does Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) a moderate Democrat, who recently fell in line with Sen. Manchin in opposing the Democratic $15 minimum wage proposal. 

On March 2, 2021 President Joe Biden accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her nomination for Director of The Office of Management and Budget. 

In a letter sent to the president, Tanden wrote, “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.” 

President Biden did confirm that Tanden would receive another position within the administration in a statement. “I have 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,” said Biden. 

President Biden has not named a new nominee to lead the OMB, but Shalanda Young has risen as a favorite. Shalanda Young was nominated to be the Deputy Director of the OMB, and she currently serves as Staff Director for the United States House Committee on Appropriations. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) released a statement on March 3, 2021, recommending Young’s nomination to be Director of the OMB, “We have worked closely with her for several years and highly recommend her for her intellect, her deep expertise on the federal budget and her determination to ensure that our budget reflects our values as a nation.” 

“Her leadership at the OMB would be historic and would send a strong message that this Administration is eager to work in close coordination with Members of Congress to craft budgets that meet the challenges of our time and can secure broad, bipartisan support.” 

Young has received bipartisan praise and support. During her Senate Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, Sen. Sanders, chair of the committee, expressed that she fell in line with many of his legislative priorities. 

If nominated, Young would also be set to receive significant Republican support. 

“Everybody that deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a ranking member of the Budget Committee. “You’ll get my support, maybe for both jobs.”

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