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Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin’s Opposition Puts Neera Tanden’s Confirmation in Jeopardy

Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin’s Opposition Puts Neera Tanden’s Confirmation in Jeopardy

Staff Writer
  • The West Virginia Senator has announced his decision to vote against President Biden’s nominee for the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V) has announced he will vote against Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Manchin’s decision puts Tanden’s nomination in jeopardy, considering the resistance she will receive from the Republicans. 

In a statement, Manchin said that he had reviewed Tanden’s previous tweets criticizing his colleagues, including Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “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,” the statement read. “For this reason, I cannot support her nomination. As I have said before, we must take meaningful steps to end the political division and dysfunction that pervades our politics. At a time of grave crisis, it is more important than ever that we chart a new bipartisan course that helps address the many serious challenges facing our nation.”

Sen. Joe Manchin

Given that Democrats only hold a 50-seat majority in the Senate, Tanden would likely need at least one Senate Republican to cast a vote in her favor to win approval to lead the OMB. 

Politico says “Biden could theoretically use a recess appointment to make Tanden the head of OMB. But that could bring procedural hurdles given Democrats’ narrow Senate majority. It could, however, be the only option. Finding Republican support for Tanden might prove a heavy lift, especially now that she doesn’t have full support from Senate Democrats.”

However, President Biden has said he will go ahead with the nomination. “I think we’re gonna find the votes to get her confirmed,” news reports quoted him as saying. “Neera Tanden is an accomplished policy expert who would be an excellent budget director and we look forward to the committee votes next week and to continuing to work toward her confirmation through engagement with both parties,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The Senate Homeland Security and Budget Committees are expected to vote on her nomination next week.

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.

Many fellow progressives took to twitter to support Tanden and call out Manchin for his hypocrisy. “I am appalled by Joe Manchin voting against Neera Tanden for OMB, a committed progressive after he voted for Bill Barr and others,” tweeted Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion-rights group NARAL. “How about assessing her work, competence and vision instead [of] the tone [of] her tweets? Stop sinking good women because they are outspoken.”

Similarly, Cliff Schecter, best-selling author and Daily Beast columnist tweeted: “Yeah, so Brett Kavanaugh, who worked with Ken Starr, yelled at Democratic Senators during his confirmation, not too partisan. But Neera is. I’ve defended Manchin a lot, as he’s from WV and I get he’s gonna be more conservative, but this is just flat out hypocrisy.”

Another user name Kim tweeted: “Manchin wants something from Schumer. I don’t know what but he’s being a butt about something. Hopefully, Collins, Murkowski or Romney will vote for Tanden. Then Harris can deliver the tie breaking vote.”

Earlier this month, during her Senate nomination hearing, Tanden faced tough questions from members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and Senate Budget Committee, including its chair, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, with whom she has clashed in the past. Tanden apologized for her past tweets criticizing some Republican lawmakers, and promised to work in a bipartisan manner if confirmed.

At the Feb. 9 Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)  questioned Tanden about her past comments, and wondered if she could actually be bipartisan given her track record. Portman read out loud some of Tanden’s past tweets, including the one where she wrote, “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” a Senator from Texas, and the one where she said Maine Sen. Susan Collins is “the worst.” Tanden replied: “Deeply regret and apologize for my language and some of my past language,” as per the CNN report. Tanden has subsequently deleted some of those tweets. 

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.” 

Politico says Manchin is “one of the few swing votes left in the Senate when it comes to nominees,” adding that he supported Richard Grenell, former president Trump’s pick for ambassador to Germany, “who had a controversial and highly partisan Twitter feed.”However, Politico notes that Shalanda Young, Biden’s pick for deputy director at OMB “is expected to face a more amicable confirmation process than Tanden.” Young was an aide on the House Appropriations Committee for 14 years and most recently served as Democratic staff director of the panel, helping broker bipartisan aid deals and government funding packages.

Politico said last month Manchin didn’t seem pleased after Vice President Kamala Harris appeared on TV in his home state to pitch the Biden administration’s Covid relief plan. “I couldn’t believe it,” Manchin told WSAZ, the West Virginia station where Harris gave her interview a day earlier. “No one called me.”

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