Politics Ñeera Tanden: Inside Biden's failed push
Neera Tanden: Schumer says he is working with Biden 'to find the extra votes' to confirm OMB pick
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday he is working with President Joe Biden to gather the support needed to confirm Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget. © Ting Shen-Pool/Getty Image Neera Tanden, nominee for director of the Office and Management and Budget, speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on February 9, 2021, in Washington, DC. "I am working with President Biden to find the extra votes so she can be passed," he told reporters during a news conference in New York, mentioning Democratic Sen.
Standing onstage in December at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Joe Biden described his freshly nominated pick to run the White House budget office, Neera Tanden, as "brilliant." He cited her hardscrabble upbringing. And he even quoted his father to emphasize her set of values.
"Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget. I'll tell you what you value," he said. "That's what you're going to do for us, Neera."
Neera Tanden’s nomination to head White House budget office in peril as Collins, Romney say they will vote against her
The nomination of Neera Tanden to head the powerful Office of Budget and Management appears increasingly imperiled, with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney and Utah, both Republicans, announcing on Monday morning that they would vote against the nominee. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, had earlier indicated that he, too, would vote against Tanden. At issue is Tanden’s storied legacy of incendiary tweets, which have frequently criticized and mocked Trump, congressional Republicans and progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The President-elect seemed confident, as did Tanden when she spoke a few minutes later, that she would soon be ensconced in the Office of Management and Budget suite next door to the West Wing.
But behind the scenes -- on Capitol Hill, in Democratic circles and even among some of Biden's allies -- few shared the bullish outlook. Tanden's history ofmade her a polarizing figure. it wasn't even clear Democrats would control the Senate.
Three months later,
The slow collapse, drawn out over weeks, came to a conclusion late Tuesday, when the White House announced Tanden had withdrawn her nomination to avoid further distraction. In his own statement, Biden said he would still award her a position in his administration, albeit one that doesn't require Senate confirmation.
Susan Collins Deals (Likely) Death Blow to Tanden Nomination
Senate moderates are poised to sacrifice Biden’s OMB pick on the altar of civility — but the White House isn’t relinquishing Tanden just yet.During the Trump era, Joe Manchin repeatedly bucked his party on high-profile votes, but in almost all of these cases, his vote was not decisive. For example, the West Virginia Democrat backed Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court — but only after enough Republican moderates had declared their support for Trump’s nominee to ensure his ascension. Meanwhile, Manchin toed the party line on the Trump Tax Cuts and Obamacare repeal.
The person viewed as a leading contender to be nominated in Tanden's place -- Shalanda Young, Biden's pick to be deputy OMB director -- had breezed through a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, earning praise even from conservative Republicans.
A lesson for the Biden White House
The selection of Tanden, a close friend of, may offer an instructive, forward-looking lesson for the seasoned Biden administration: Despite decades of political experience in Washington, they are now operating under razor-thin Democratic majorities in Congress in a capital still very much unsettled by the Trump era.
Tanden's downfall amounts to the first real stumble for the new team, which has still seen the bulk of Biden's Cabinet selections approved by wide bipartisan majorities. All recent presidents have had one or more of their nominees fail. It took President Barack Obama, for example, three attempts to find a commerce secretary and two tries to get a health and human services secretary confirmed. By the time he departed office, President Donald Trump had all but given up on making high-profile nominations at all, preferring to name acting secretaries instead.
Team Biden taps Asian American groups to help save Tanden
As Biden’s choice for budget chief flounders in the Senate, the White House has rallied her allies in the South Asian community to her defense.Those groups are calling and sending letters to Senate offices and advocating for Tanden on social media to try to combat what they are calling “structural racism” and “institutional racism.
Since the moment of her nomination on December 1, Tanden worked to allay the skepticism about her selection -- from Democrats and Republicans alike. For much of the last three months, she met with 46 different senators, officials said, offering apologies and explanations for her salty, and often offensive, tweets that she blasted out during Trump's tenure. The fact that the downfall of Tanden's nomination was her Twitter account is an ironic turn of events given the vitriol that often spewed from the former President on the same platform before he was suspended earlier this year.
"I deeply regret and apologize for my language and some of my past language," Tanden said at her confirmation hearing last month, a recognition that she still had work to do to win the hearts and minds of the senators who would determine her fate.
In the end, it wasn't enough. Even more, an administration official told CNN, the political capital being spent trying to salvage her confirmation is needed on trying to thread the complicated needle among Democrats to pass the Covid-19 relief bill in the Senate.
Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden
Tanden has reportedly deleted more than 1,000 tweets heading into her confirmation hearings. Yep, 1,000. Fairly certain they weren’t family vacation photos that were purged. Included in Tanden's greatest online hits were her references to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as "Moscow Mitch" and "Voldemort." In 2018, she attacked Sen. Collins during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. "Susan Collins' terrible treatment of Dr.
The episode underscores the governing constraints facing Biden despite enjoying Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate. And it illustrates what some Biden allies describe as overconfidence by the President and his chief of staff -- who was instrumental in pushing for Tanden's selection — in managing a delicate political reality on Capitol Hill.
Tanden's nomination was effectively scuttled by a single centrist Democrat: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose statement of opposition last month on a Friday afternoon sent the White House scrambling and provided an early warning of how a single vote can thwart Biden's legislative agenda. Manchin cited Tanden's "overtly partisan statements," which he said would create toxicity between the White House and Capitol Hill.
Spending political capital
Manchin's skepticism opened the door to more, but the White House insisted it wasn't over for Tanden yet. And at Klain's urging, the administration continued pushing for her to be confirmed, even as it became ever clearer she would not gain enough support.
Officials sought to highlight backing from moderate Republicans outside of Congress, including former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. And they repeatedly pointed to her historic credentials -- she would have been the first woman of South Asian descent to run OMB -- as evidence of her worthiness for confirmation.
Key GOP swing vote undecided on whether to back Biden's imperiled budget pick
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska had a sit-down meeting on Monday with Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, but has not decided yet if she will provide the crucial vote Tanden likely needs to be confirmed. © Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
One official said the White House wanted to, even though many inside the building acknowledged Tanden's nomination was likely doomed. The official said it would have looked weak had Biden caved, particularly because the main criticism of Tanden -- that her tweets were cruel -- could be viewed as sexist.
"Let me be clear: We're going to get Neera Tanden confirmed. That's what we're working for," Klain said during an appearance on MSNBC last week.
He was not alone in his desire to keep pushing; Biden himself was on board, as were other senior advisers, according to people familiar with the matter.
"We're going to push," Biden said last month, even as it became clear the door to confirmation was closing. "We still think there's a shot, a good shot."
Still, inside the administration, Klain was viewed as Tanden's strongest advocate and the most ardent voice in pushing to continue her nomination.
"Ron is not a dispassionate observer here," a senior Democrat who has previously worked with Klain told CNN last week, ahead of Tanden's withdrawal, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the White House. "He selected Neera and doesn't want this to fail."
Yet the troubling signs continued. Multiple aides told CNN that Biden's team was leaning so confidently into the idea of their party falling in line on nominations that minimal outreach was conducted toto vote for Tanden.
On Wednesday last week, the two committees that had been scheduled to hold votes on Tanden's nomination abruptly delayed them. But it was not Republicans causing the holdup; Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat from Arizona, refused to say how she would vote, and the committee did not want to risk moving forward without knowing the outcome.
How Twitter killed Neera Tanden's chances -- and why it will happen again
The White House bowed to the inevitable on Tuesday night, pulling the nomination of Neera Tanden to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget. © Provided by CNN Logo Twitter from Getty That a Cabinet nominee didn't make it even to a Senate floor vote isn't anything new. Every president since Bill Clinton has lost at least one of his initial Cabinet picks. Given that, it would have been more exceptional if President Joe Biden didn't lose any Cabinet nominees.
The nomination appeared finally dead aftera moderate Republican from Alaska, signaled to the White House that -- despite a one-on-one meeting where issues related to her state had been discussed in detail -- she would not support Tanden's nomination.
Speaking in the moments after Tanden's withdrawal was announced, Murkowski did not seem surprised.
"It was kind of going that direction," she said, going on to describe how she had shown Tanden maps of Alaska's tribal lands during their highly anticipated meeting.
In trouble from the start
It wasn't how Biden, Tanden or Klain had envisioned things going three months ago.
When Tanden was selected, the Biden transition team had believed Republicans would control the Senate, which made her nomination even more confounding. But at the time, Biden and his aides leaned heavily into her background, including how she had been raised by a single mother who came to the United States from India.
"I'm here today because of social programs," Tanden said on the day of her nomination, standing onstage near Biden in Wilmington. "Because of budgetary choices. Because of a government that saw my mother's dignity, and gave her a chance."
Yet one of the biggest roadblocks to confirmation came after the Georgia runoff races effectively handed control of the Senate to Democrats, which suddenly made Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, the leader of the Budget Committee.
Tanden and Sanders had tangled publicly for years, dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign, when she worked as a top adviser to Hillary Clinton. Sanders blamed Tanden, among other establishment Democrats, for his loss in the primary race.
Until the final moments on Tuesday, Sanders had not embraced her as Biden's nominee to lead OMB.
"Neera Tanden does not have the votes, so we'll have to see what happens in the future," Sanders told CNN's Wolf Blitzer shortly before the White House pulled her nomination.
When pressed for his position, Sanders replied, "I'll make that decision when the vote takes place."
Neera Tanden’s OMB nomination failed. Her fallback plan remains a mystery. .
Those close to Tanden expect she will have a role in the White House. But the West Wing is pretty full already.Sources close to Tanden say she is inclined to take a job in the administration — one that doesn’t require Senate confirmation — after her nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget was pulled on Tuesday night after it became clear she didn't have enough votes. They expect that some sort of announcement will come in the near term. But there is a hurdle: the most logical landing spots for Tanden are occupied and the West Wing is already quite crowded.