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Loose Tweets Sink Ships? In a Shocking Surrender White House Pulls Neera Tanden’s Nomination

Loose Tweets Sink Ships? In a Shocking Surrender White House Pulls Neera Tanden’s Nomination

Bhargavi Kulkarni
  • President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget has been a victim of senatorial double standards.

In what may be regarded as the first major defeat for the new Biden administration, the White House has withdrawn the nomination of Neera Tanden as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Ever since President Joe Biden had nominated her, Republicans and a few Democrats have attacked her for what have been portrayed as intemperate tweets, even as supporters of Tanden pointed out the hypocrisy of these very people who looked the other way when President Trump, for four full years, relentlessly made far worse comments, not to mention outright lies and smears.

“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. “ 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.”

Biden’s action comes after Tanden sent him a letter requesting him to withdraw her nomination. “It has been an honor of a lifetime to be considered for this role and for the faith placed in me,” she wrote. Noting that she appreciates how hard Biden and his team at the White House worked to win her  confirmation,” she wrote: “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

Shekar Narasimhan, chair of AAPI Victory Fund told American Kahani that he is stunned and disappointed. “We worked out hearts out and there were over 321 million views on #YESNeera,” he said. “Democrats need to figure out how they can stand together as the only reason they have a majority is the AAPI voters who got them over the top on Georgia.”

Tanden’s supporters took to Twitter to decry the move and wish Tanden well. 

Neil Makhija, executive director of IMPACT, an Indian American advocacy group, tweeted: “Looking forward to hearing about Neera Tanden’s next appointment, which does not have to be approved by any Senators who voted for Jeff Sessions,” he wrote. “No matter what it is in gov, she will most likely be the first South Asian woman / woman of color in history to hold that senior role.”

A user named Scottacular tweeted: Neera Tanden just fell victim to the trifecta of hypocrisy, sexism and racism.Please RETWEET to show her your support.”

Another tweet said: “What happened to Neera Tanden is appalling. Her nomination was not considered on the basis of her qualifications and leadership, but on her not bending her knee to Bernie Sanders & his far left grievance crew, her support of Hillary Clinton, & her refusal to be cowed. Shameful.”

Kurt Bardela tweeted: It is  bull-sh*t that after spending four years ignoring the graveyard of Donald Trump’s Twitter feed that Senators would use @neeratanden’s factually accurate tweets as a vehicle to mask their sexism and block her nomination.

Someone even started a hashtag Postmaster Tanden.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Republican senators are proposing Shalanda Young’s name as a replacement for Tanden. Young is currently the president’s pick for deputy director of the OMB. 

Tanden had support of several progressive groups as well as from South Asian and Asian American organizations, political action committees, lawmakers and influential policymakers who are organizing through phone calls, social media, tweet storms, op-eds, and sign-on letters.

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These support groups were focusing on three senators who have yet to declare their intentions — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Tanden met Murkowski on March 1. However, after their meeting, Murkowski  told CNN that she still hadn’t made up her mind.

Tanden’s peril began when Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he did not support her nomination due to her previous tweets criticizing his colleagues. It bears mentioning that Manchin had voted to confirm several Trump nominees who were no shrinking violets when it came to attacking opponents in the social media. Tanden’s nomination was also opposed by Collins and Sen Mitt Romney of Utah, as well as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Without support from Manchin in an evenly divided Senate, Tanden needs backing from at least one Republican. Meanwhile, Tanden’s confirmation was put further in peril as two hearings that were scheduled to vote on her nomination were unexpectedly postponed on Feb. 24.

Tanden, a long-time friend and former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is one of the most influential Indian American pols 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.

Last 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.”

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