Administration, Allies Continue Fight For Embattled Nominee Tanden

Administration, Allies Continue Fight For Embattled Nominee Tanden


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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The Biden administration and its allies continue to fight against worsening odds to keep alive Neera Tanden’s nearly moribund nomination to head up the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Tanden’s nomination has been rocky from the beginning for her many caustic and partisan tweets, both against Republicans — such as comparing Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to Harry Potter villain Voldemort, calling Sen Susan Collins of Maine the “worst” — but also attacking progressive Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Tanden, who long has led a major Democratic think tank in Washington DC, is close to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate — and repeat Sanders rival — Hillary Clinton.

Tanden deleted hundreds of her tweets at the time of her OMB nomination, and apologized for them during her confirmation hearings, including a hearing chaired by now-Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders.

However, the bottom of the Tanden nomination seemed to fall out several days ago when conservative Democratic Sen Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he would not support the nomination.

With no announced Republican support, Manchin’s decision would seem to doom Tanden’s chances in the 50/50 Senate. Yet President Biden and his allies are not publicly giving up yet.

“The stage we’re in is working to continue to fight for her nomination and, as you know, it’s a numbers game, right?” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. “It’s a matter of getting one Republican to support her nomination, we’re continuing to do that outreach, answer questions they have and continue to reiterate her qualifications.”

Some are complaining that conservatives are trying to torpedo several of Biden’s non-white nominees, which would include the Indian-American Tanden, as well as Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra and Interior Secretary-designate Deb Haaland.

“And I do think it’s interesting that three people the Republicans have chosen to fight over, Tanden, Becerra, and Haaland, are three minority candidates,” said former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “For a Republican Party that has serious minority problems, taking these three fights is an interesting issue and interesting decision to a party that’s now out of power and needs some minority votes to get back in power someday.”

Even longtime conservative Bill Kristol was taken aback by the danger Tanden’s nomination finds itself in.

“Neera Tanden, who ran a major think tank, who’s a tough-minded policy expert but who was involved in politics and criticized a few senators, now they’re going to defeat her? And also, who knew about Manchin? He had his own issues with the Biden administration. He’s going to vote for the stimulus package, the relief package. He wants to show independence so he’s taking it out on Neera,” Kristol said, referring to the fact that Manchin is a Democrat from a very Donald Trump-supporting state. “I’m a friend of hers so I’m a little biased, but I find this all — as if the tweets are really an issue, it’s ridiculous.

“And Senator [John Neely] Kennedy [R-La.] gave it away, right, it’s not the tweets, but actually it is the tweets, it shows an attitude. Well, what attitude? What attitude?” Kristol added.

Former Republican congressman and Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough chalked up Tanden’s troubles to her acid tweets — and the hardball of politics.

“I will just tell you if there were somebody that I had to vote on that insulted one of my colleagues that I worked with day in — let’s make this simple. If somebody insulted you, and trashed you, and then wanted to come on the show, no. No, I don’t think that’s going to happen. … ” Scarborough said.

“And so Joe Manchin has seen Susan Collins being called the worst. He’s see Susan Collins saying should be haunted for the rest of her days. He’s hoping to forge a bipartisan coalition moving forward over the next two years with Susan Collins. And so, he’s going to stand by his colleague. This is again, is it hypocritical? Sure. It’s hypocritical,” he added. “Have I said harsh, harsh things about Republicans over the past week. Yes, I have. A lot of people have. But they don’t have a vote on what we do everyday. They do have a vote on what Neera Tanden is doing and if you’re running OMB, kind of important that you have a good working relationship with the Hill.

“You know what, you can tweet harsh tweets about people, or you can get nominated. I don’t think you can do both and maybe that’s hypocritical on the Republicans part and Joe Manchin’s part, but it also it’s the way politics is,” Scarborough said. “And the Biden administration certainly should understand that and so should Neera.”

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