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Neera Tanden Set to Make History Becoming the First Indian American in Presidential Cabinet

Neera Tanden Set to Make History Becoming the First Indian American in Presidential Cabinet

  • The long-time friend and former adviser to Hillary Clinton is to be expected to be nominated as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Neera Tanden, president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress, a center-left think tank, to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Tanden, a long-time friend and former adviser of Hillary Clinton, is one of the most influential Indian American politicos in Washington, D.C. She has 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.The Office of Management and Budget oversees the performance of federal agencies, and administers the federal budget.

As the news of Tanden’s appointment broke on Twitter, the microblogging and social networking site exploded with reactions from both sides of the aisle. “Wow, this is awesome! So proud of  @neeratanden  who will make for a fabulous OMB director at a time when the country needs it more than ever,” tweeted Neal Katyal, former acting Solicitor General.

Another admirer tweeted, “So @neeratanden  had her private emails hacked by the Russians & run in the NYT, was ridiculed/harassed, but kept at it & fought every day to bring  @realDonaldTrump  to account. Most of her critics spent the last 5 years shit posting. We don’t agree on everything, but good on her.”

“Glad to see we can have someone with good judgement in this administration,” another wrote. “Someone who trusts the science and believes in experts.” Similarly, in her tweet congratulating Tanden, Washington, D.C.-based computer scientists and entrepreneur, Rohini K. Srihari wrote: “She has fought valiantly the past 4 years to protect #omabacare and other rights we take for granted.” 

There was criticism of Tanden as well. Many progressives view her as too wedded to the Clintons’ triangulation or moderation and too close to comfort with corporate interests. After all, she has been a formidable fundraiser for the Democrats for over two decades. Some called her ‘an old thief,” while another write: “Imagine thinking Neera Tanden is good.” Another user tweeted: “God help us all. “#GeneralStrike because no substantial change is coming even with Joe Biden ad Kamala Harris.” Another critic opined, “Neera Tanden spent half a decade downing bottles of merlot and picking fights with 20 year-old Bernie supporters and Sunrise Movement activists on here and she is going to be in charge of OMB. Awesome. Vote blue no matter who lol.”

Even a cursory look at Tanden’s career shows that she is no shrinking violet when it comes to standing up for progressive causes and defending the people she believes in.

However, even a cursory look at Tanden’s career shows that she is no shrinking violet when it comes to standing up for progressive causes and defending the people she believes in. She rarely misses a chance to point out how her immigrant single mother was able to raise her with the help of the social security protections that the government offers. Her fingerprints can be found on most progressive legislations of the last two Democratic nominations. Washington insiders see her centrism as tactical, to get things done. Tanden is also a fierce loyalist and a partisan who can pick up cudgels, as has been evident in her twitter fights with both conservative and progressive critics.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are expected to make the announcement of Tanden’s nomination on Dec. 1 in Wilmington, Delaware, “as his incoming administration faces a bleak economic outlook with millions of Americans still seeking work and slow job growth heading into the winter months after a strong bounce back during the summer,” the Journal reported. Citing “people familiar with the transition’s thinking,” the Journal reported that Biden’s selections would “help him move quickly on his “build back better” agenda that aims to spur job growth while addressing economic inequality.”

Earlier this month, one of Tanden’s tweet congratulating Biden and Harris for their win, was flagged for with a disputed content warning. She deleted the tweet shortly afterward. “And the monster is defeated,” Tanden’s tweet said. The now deleted tweet read: “Biden is already at 270 and his [electoral college] margin will likely grow with [Pennsylvania], and maybe even Georgia. The mission was to defeat the monster. And the monster is defeated.”

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Last year, Vermont Senator and presidential nominee Bernie 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.”

Before leading the CAP, Tanden served as its chief operating officer, as per her bio on the organization’s website. She came to the CAP after serving as senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to that, she was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign, where she managed all domestic policy proposals. She also served as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, where she directed all policy work and oversaw the debate preparation process for the then New York senator. 

Before the 2008 presidential campaign, Tanden served as legislative director in Sen. Clinton’s office and deputy campaign manager and issues director for Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. She began her career as an associate director for domestic policy in President Bill Clinton’s White House and senior policy adviser to the First Lady.

Tanden received her bachelor of science from the University of California, Los Angeles and her law degree from Yale Law School. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two children.


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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