Biden’s choice for budget director hits US Senate roadblock

Longtime Democratic operative Neera Tanden drew bipartisan criticism for critical tweets in Trump era

Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nomination to be director of the Office and Management and Budget (OMB), has found opposition in the US Senate [File: Ting Shen/Pool via Reuters]

President Joe Biden’s nomination of Neera Tanden to head the White House Office of Management and Budget, a key domestic policy role, has run into trouble in the United States Senate.

In the evenly divided 50-50 Senate, a combination of Republican opposition and potential Democratic defections puts Tanden’s prospects in jeopardy.

Two Senate committees postponed planned meetings on Wednesday to vote to advance Tanden’s nomination to the full Senate, effectively putting her confirmation on hold.

Delays by the Senate Budget and Homeland Security committees came after Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat whom the Biden team needs to advance its agenda in the Senate, said he would not vote to confirm Tanden.

Another Democratic centrist, Senator Kyrsten Sinema so far has refrained from voicing support for Tanden.

Tanden is the president of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning think tank, and a former top Senate aide to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

A failure of her OMB nomination would be the first defeat for the new Biden White House, which so far has won Senate approval of his cabinet selections.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement on Twitter on Wednesday expressing support for Tanden after the Senate committee meetings were delayed.

“She has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the US Chamber of Commerce to labor unions, and has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden’s cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB,” Psaki said. Tanden is the daughter of immigrants from India.

Manchin had issued a statement on February 19 after reviewing Tanden’s tweets, which have now been deleted.

“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,” Manchin said.

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

Democratic supporters of Tanden cried foul after it emerged that Manchin’s opposition to Tanden may have been more personal than principled.

In 2016 on Twitter, Tanden had criticised Manchin’s daughter Heather Bresch, the former CEO of drugmaker Mylan NV which had profited from excessive price increases in EpiPen supplies.

Bresch had earned between $15m and $20m annually as Mylan’s CEO prior to retiring last year with Mylan’s acquisition by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

As Tanden’s nomination stalled, alternative names for OMB director surfaced among leading Democrats on Capitol Hill, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Shalanda Young, a former House Appropriations Committee top staff aide, who has been nominated by Biden to deputy OMB director has emerged as a leading candidate, according to the report. An African American, she has support from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Adding to Tanden’s woes, the White House had not given Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders advance notice of her nomination, according to a report in the Politico news outlet. Sanders and Tanden had disagreed publicly during his presidential run against Biden in 2020 and his contest with Clinton in 2016.

Source: Al Jazeera