- Biden’s pick to head the White House budget office withdrew on Tuesday.
- Sen. Joe Manchin came out in opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination, jeopardizing her path forward in an evenly divided Senate.
- Tanden sparked controversy because of her heated attacks on Republicans — and some on the left, too.
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President Joe Biden was hit with his first cabinet defeat on Tuesday as his pick to oversee the White House budget office withdrew from consideration after generating resistance from a key conservative Democrat and a group of moderate Republican senators.
“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 on Tuesday evening. “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.”
In a letter alongside Biden’s statement, Tanden wrote that the nomination was the “honor of a lifetime” and withdrew to not let the process become a distraction.
“I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation,” Tanden said in a withdrawal letter released by the White House. “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.”
Tanden’s nomination was imperiled after Sen. Joe Manchin said he opposed her nomination to lead the White House budget office last month. The West Virginia Democrat cited her “overtly partisan statements” as a potential hurdle to bipartisanship in Congress.
The loss of Manchin’s vote meant Democrats needed at least one Republican senator to support her in an evenly divided chamber where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker. Then her path to confirmation narrowed further after two centrist GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, announced their opposition as well.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the lone swing vote that could rescue Tanden’s nomination. The pair met in person on Monday, but Murkowski reiterated a day later she was still undecided on her confirmation.
Tanden’s history of caustic attacks on GOP lawmakers over social media as well as against independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont generated substantial controversy around her nomination.
Her social media posts prompted many Senate Republicans to strongly oppose Tanden. She once referred to Collins as “Scrooge” and also lambasted Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas as a “fraud” on Twitter.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio brought up the social media posts during Tanden’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee last month. She apologized, saying “I regret that language and take responsibility for it.”
Many of Tanden’s controversial tweets are no longer visible. Hundreds were deleted from her account in 2020 after Biden nominated her to lead OMB.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain recently said that Tanden would receive another job in the White House if her nomination fell through – one that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.
Democrats assailed Republicans for hypocrisy because former President Donald Trump often tweeted scathing attacks against members of his own party. At Tanden’s second confirmation hearing on Feb. 10, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan contrasted Tanden’s social-media activity with Trump’s: “We’ve endured four years of the ultimate mean tweets.”
Tanden, who was a close ally of Hillary Clinton for many years and advised her during the 2016 presidential campaign, also clashed with the Sanders camp over the direction of the Democratic Party in the 2016 and 2020 primaries.
During a second confirmation hearing, the Vermont senator sharply questioned Tanden about the corporate donations the Center for American Progress received while she helmed it, in addition to her social media activity.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, Sanders would not reveal whether he supported Tanden’s confirmation and only acknowledged that she did not have enough votes.
“I will make that decision when the vote takes place,” Sanders said.
The White House and Biden initially said they would seek to shore up her support among Republicans to pave the way for her confirmation. “I think we’ll find the votes to get her confirmed,” Biden said last month.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Tanden had met with 44 Republican and Democratic senators so far and won crucial endorsements from the US Chamber of Commerce and labor unions.
“The president nominated her because he believes she’d be a stellar OMB Director. She’s tested,” Psaki said. “She is a leading policy expert. She has led a think tank in Washington that has done a great deal of work on policy issues but has done a great deal of bipartisan work as well.”