Biden hit with first Cabinet defeat as White House withdraws Neera Tanden nomination for budget chief

Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden.

  • 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.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

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.”

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House Democrats gear up for Friday vote on the $1.9 trillion Biden stimulus package

Nancy Pelosi House Democrats
Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders.

  • House Democrats have scheduled a final floor vote for Friday.
  • Republicans strongly oppose the plan, arguing it contains a litany of progressive priorities.
  • Senate Democrats are awaiting a ruling that would determine whether a $15 minimum wage can be included in the final package.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

House Democrats on Wednesday were setting the stage for a floor vote on Friday, as their Senate counterparts waited for a key ruling that would determine whether a $15 minimum wage could be included in the stimulus package.

In a press call, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats aimed to “pass a final bill and send it to the president by the 12th of March.”

That deadline would be two days before enhanced unemployment insurance programs start ending for many jobless Americans, including a $300 weekly federal supplement. Democrats have continued trying to gather support for the plan.

“Right now, it’s more important than ever that we do everything that we can to crush the virus, rebuilding our economy for working people and families that need the support to get back on their feet,” Rep. Pete Aguilar told reporters.

Republicans are strongly opposed to the Democratic plan, arguing it contains a litany of progressive priorities.

“They’re gonna try to muscle it through on a totally partisan basis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. “It also includes a number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with COVID.”

The floor vote would send the legislation to the Senate, which is expected to take it up next week. The House bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 federal unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments.

It also includes a gradual increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour – a measure that has been a lightning rod of criticism among Republicans and several Democrats. 

Democrats are employing a tactic known as reconciliation to shield the package from a filibuster. It only needs a simple majority of 51 votes to get through the Senate, instead of the usual 60.

But reconciliation has strict budgetary rules, including a set of requirements that every element has a substantial impact on federal spending, the debt, and revenue over 10 years. The Senate parliamentarian governing the process will decide whether the minimum wage boost complies with those guidelines.

Democrats and Republicans made their cases to the parliamentarian early on Tuesday morning. A ruling on the wage bump could come later on Wednesday or early Thursday.

Still, some Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are opposed, complicating the bill’s path to final approval. He has said he would push for an increase to $11 an hour instead. A ruling that the wage increase complies with the rules of reconciliation may set off another furious round of negotiations on a middle ground.

“I’m an optimist,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters. “I think even though several Democrats have some concerns that we can still find a basis for agreement.”

The Biden administration has pressed for a $15 minimum wage in the package. But White House officials have said that Senate Democrats will be in charge of striking a possible deal on a smaller wage increase.

“The compromise will be between members of the Senate who may have disagreement on where the minimum wage should sit or what the process should be,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.

Democrats on Wednesday also struggled to confirm Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget. Two committee votes on her nomination were cancelled earlier in the day, sowing further doubt about whether she can get enough votes in the Senate to be confirmed.

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