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Bernie Sanders Grills Neera Tanden on Her Past Tweets and Role at Center for American Progress

Bernie Sanders Grills Neera Tanden on Her Past Tweets and Role at Center for American Progress

  • On the second day of Senate confirmation hearing, there was bipartisan questioning about past statements of the nominee to lead Office of Management and Budget.

During her second confirmation hearing on Feb. 10, Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, faced tough questions from members of the Senate Budget Committee, including its chair, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, with whom she has clashed in the past. 

Tanden again apologized for her past tweets criticizing some Republican lawmakers.  A day earlier, at her confirmation hearing with the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Tanden had apologized for her earlier criticism of some GOP lawmakers, and promised to work in a bipartisan manner if confirmed.

Tanden, a long-time friend and former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is one of the most influential Indian American politicos in Washington, D.C. Till recently, she headed the Center for American Progress, and has previously served in both the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations, as well as on Democratic presidential campaigns. She was one of the principles who drafted the Affordable Care Bill under the Obama administration.

Ever since she was nominated, many prominent names from across the aisle have reacted, both for and against the nomination. Her supporters praise her passion for a wide range of policy issues, while Republicans decried her role in drafting the Affordable Care Act and her outspoken criticism of the GOP. Some progressives view her as too wedded to the Clintons’ triangulation or moderation and too close to comfort with corporate interests.

“Tanden, who if confirmed would take on a central policy role in the White House, faced criticism from both sides of the aisle in her second day of confirmation hearings,” The Hill reported.

Sen. Lindsey Graham also read one of Tanden’s tweets: “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal emails did to help Hillary.” 

On Feb. 10, she faced questions on her history of strongly worded partisan attacks on Twitter and on her role at the head of the progressive think tank, Center for American Progress. Members of the committee highlighted her past history with Sanders and referred to some of her tweets, especially during the 2016 election season when Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Referring to those tweets, Sanders said: “Your attacks were not just made against Republicans. There were vicious attacks made against progressives. People I have worked with.” Acknowledging that lawmakers are used to such criticism, Sanders said “it’s important” to refrain from personal attacks and instead express “differences on policy.”

Replying to Sanders, Tanden said: “My language and my expressions on social media caused hurt to people, and I feel badly about that. And I really regret it and I recognize that it’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others.” Talking about her tweets, Tanden said: “Social media does lead to too many personal comments, and my approach [at OMB] would be radically different.” 

Other topics she talked about included her support for a $15 per hour minimum wage, lowering prescription drug prices, reducing the Medicare eligibility age, a guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave, free tuition for public college for eligible students and universal pre-K.

When Sanders asked her whether her relationship with powerful donors would impact her decision making if she is confirmed to lead the OMB, Tanden replied that it would have “zero impact.” She added: “It will be my role to ensure that I am only serving the interests of the American people.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. also grilled Tanden. “Her scorn was not limited to Republicans,” he said, referring to her tweets on Sanders. He also read one of Tanden’s tweets: “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal emails did to help Hillary.” Graham noted that “in a time of unity, we’re picking somebody with those sharp elbows, and there’s going to be a consequence for that, hopefully on our side.” He also read aloud some reviews of her former employees at the Center for American Progress left on Glassdoor over the last few years.

Last year, Sanders had sent a letter to the Center for American Progress and the CAP Action Fund rebuking the think tank for playing what he called a “destructive role” in the “critical mission to defeat Donald Trump,” the New York Times had reported. Sanders referenced an article and video published on the website of ThinkProgress that criticized the senator for his growing personal wealth. 

Following the letter, Tanden had issued a statement  noting that the think tank is “editorially independent” of CAP and CAP Action. As per the New York Times report, Tanden described the video attacking Sanders as “overly harsh. We believe the content of the ThinkProgress video critiquing Sen. Sanders is overly harsh and does not reflect our approach to a constructive debate of the issues,” Tanden said. 

News reports say Tanden’s nomination must be approved by both the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee before the full Senate can take it up for a vote. Forbes says Tanden’s “confirmation requires only a simple majority of votes, meaning that Democrats will be able to confirm her over Republicans objections if the entire caucus votes together.”

Bhargavi Kulkarni has been a journalist for nearly two decades. She has a degree in English literature and French. She is also an adventure sport enthusiast, and in her free time, she likes to cook, bake, bike and hike.

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