Los Angeles Times

Tanden out as budget nominee

- By Eli Stokols and Jennifer Haberkorn

Biden withdraws his Cabinet pick, acknowledg­ing she lacked the Senate votes to be confirmed.

WASHINGTON — President Biden withdrew the nomination of longtime Democratic policy advisor Neera Tanden to be his budget director, an acknowledg­ment that she could not win the 50 Senate votes needed to secure confirmati­on.

“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 Tuesday night. “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.”

By his statement, Biden confirmed advisors’ previous suggestion­s to reporters that, if Tanden were not confirmed, she would get another senior position in the administra­tion, one that did not require Senate approval.

The collapse of Tanden’s nomination marked the administra­tion’s first defeat in filling a Cabinet post. It also underscore­d the fragility of the slim Democratic majority in the evenly split Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tiebreaker, and the power each senator holds on party-line votes.

Tanden was opposed by Republican lawmakers who cited her acrimoniou­s tweets attacking them during the Trump years, when she was serving as the director of a progressiv­e think tank in Washington.

The White House had hoped to persuade Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to cast a decisive vote in support of Tanden, in defiance of her party’s united opposition to the nomination. On Tuesday evening, Murkowski told reporters that she did not tell the White House she would oppose the nomination: “No, I never did — they never asked.”

Even Murkowski was not spared in Tanden’s caustic Twitter feed. As Republican­s crafted their tax bill in late 2017, Tanden tweeted that Murkowski was “high on your own supply” and that her defense of the bill was “all garbage.”

Tanden’s candidacy became imperiled last month when moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia announced that he would not support her nomination, leaving the White House in the position of having to win at least one Republican’s vote to secure her confirmati­on.

Manchin cited Tanden’s history of partisan tweets as the reason behind his decision.

“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,” he said. “We must take meaningful steps to end the political division and dysfunctio­n that pervades our politics.”

Other Democrats supported Tanden’s nomination, pointing to her history as a policy advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama. She also told a compelling personal story, about the role government programs have played in her own life as the daughter of a single mother who relied on public housing and nutrition programs.

“She’s just very impressive,” Sen. Jon Tester (DMont.) said. Especially compared to Trump appointees to the job, he added, “I think she’s pretty damn qualified.”

Moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had not taken a public position on Tanden’s nomination, raising doubts about her support. After Manchin made his opposition public, two moderate Republican­s who were considered among the most likely to support Tanden, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, made clear they would vote against her, too, also citing her tweets. In one, Tanden had called Collins “the worst.”

“Congress has to be able to trust the OMB director to make countless decisions in an impartial manner, carrying out the letter of the law and congressio­nal intent,” Collins said in a statement. “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.”

Collins also said Tanden’s deletion of her past tweets “raises concerns about her commitment to transparen­cy.”

Tanden, who would have been the first Indian American woman to serve in the post, had been scheduled to receive a vote in the Senate Homeland Security Committee late last month, but the vote was canceled at the last minute.

With Tanden out, a leading contender for the nomination as budget director is Shalanda Young, a former senior aide on the House Appropriat­ions Committee who was nominated to serve as the director’s deputy. At her Senate confirmati­on hearing Tuesday for the deputy post, Young got praise from several Republican­s, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Shelby of Alabama.

“I believe she would be good in that role,” Shelby said last month amid speculatio­n about Tanden’s prospects. Young is “smart, she knows the process insideout, and she’s an honest broker who has demonstrat­ed the ability to work with both sides and get things done. She would have my support, and I suspect many of my Republican colleagues would support her, as well.”

The Senate had confirmed 12 of Biden’s Cabinet picks as of Tuesday, a slow rate by historic standards. That’s partly because the Senate was not in session for most of January and then the impeachmen­t trial of former President Trump preoccupie­d senators for a week.

 ?? Kent Nishimura Los Angeles Times ?? POLICY ADVISOR Neera Tanden, whom President Biden pulled as his nominee to serve in the Cabinet as budget chief, lacked the Senate votes to be confirmed.
Kent Nishimura Los Angeles Times POLICY ADVISOR Neera Tanden, whom President Biden pulled as his nominee to serve in the Cabinet as budget chief, lacked the Senate votes to be confirmed.

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