- At the Senate confirmation hearing, nominee for Office of Management and Budget faces questions on her intemperate language.
At her Senate confirmation hearing on Feb. 9, Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, promised to work in a bipartisan manner if confirmed. She also apologized for her earlier criticism of some GOP lawmakers. If confirmed, Tanden will make history as only the second Indian American in a presidential cabinet, after Nikki Haley who served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Trump administration.
Ever since Tanden 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, 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.
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, a CNN report said. 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.
Referring to those deleted tweets, Portman asked Tanden if she had deleted them, in advance of her nomination, and if so, why. “I appreciate people’s concerns about my tweets and I’ve regretted them, and I deleted tweets because I regretted my tone, and I’ve deleted tweets over many months.” she replied. “For those concerned about my rhetoric and my language, I am sorry and I am sorry for any hurt that they have caused.”
During the hearing, Tanden pushed for the president’s $1.9 trillion economic relief package, CNN reported. “The economy is still deeply challenged,” it quoted Tanden as saying. “We have 10 million more people unemployed than we did a year ago. That is a lot of human suffering. We also are continuing to see increased small business failures.”
Earlier, in her opening remarks, she said: “I know the role of OMB director is different from some of my past positions. Over the last few years, it’s been part of my role to be an impassioned advocate. I understand, though, that the role of OMB Director calls for bipartisan action, as well as a nonpartisan adherence to facts and evidence.”
She recalled how her single mother relied on food stamps and vouchers. “I spend every day grateful for a nation and a government that had faith in my mother and in me, that invested in our humanity and gave me a fair shot to pursue my potential,” Tanden said. “My path in life would never have been possible without budgetary choices that reflected our nation’s values.”
Tanden now faces the Senate Budget Committee, which will hold its own hearing on her nomination on Jan. 10. The hearing will be chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
The two have had a strained relationship.
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.
In its report of the incident, Politico said “the clash represents a deeper tension within the Democratic Party as 18 candidates vie for the chance to take on Trump in the 2020 presidential election.”
Brianna Joy Gray, the former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted: “Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden.”