WASHINGTON – Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s controversial pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, withdrew herself from consideration Tuesday after her confirmation collapsed last week, dealing Biden his first major blow in his nominations to the Cabinet.
Biden in a statement said Tanden had withdrawn her nomination and said he still “look(ed) forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration.”
Tanden led the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress for a decade, during which she gained a reputation as a partisan warrior who frequently targeted Republican lawmakers on Twitter and feuded with progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The seasoned Democratic operative gained an outpouring of support for her nomination from outside groups, including the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor groups, but her trail of abrasive tweets targeted at members of both parties may have torpedoed her confirmation.
In a letter from Tanden withdrawing her nomination sent out by the White House, she said “it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation.”
As OMB director, Tanden would have become the first woman of color and first South Asian person to lead the powerful executive office and had an outsized role in shaping the Biden’s administration’s domestic policy.
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Her nomination began to unravel after Sen. Joe Manchin, a key moderate Democrat, said he would not support her nomination, triggering a string of Republicans to announce they would also vote against her.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate panels tasked with vetting her candidacy, last week postponed their planned votes saying senators needed more time to consider her nomination amid bipartisan conversations between lawmakers.
Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, John Cornyn of Texas, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, announced they would oppose her confirmation, citing her previous partisan statements. Both Collins and Romney were considered among a group of Republicans who might throw their support behind Tanden.
Although a final Senate vote on her nomination had not been scheduled, Tanden needed at least one Republican senator to break in her favor due to the upper chamber’s 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris would have cast a potential tie-breaking vote to secure the simple majority needed for confirmation.
Tanden, who burnished her reputation as a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton and later played a key role in the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, faced a bruising confirmation process in which she was forced to repeatedly apologize after Republicans skewered her over previous statements about their colleagues.
She also acknowledged she removed more than 1,000 tweets from her account before she was nominated as OMB director, a decision Collins said “raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.”
Democrats have pointed out that Republicans outraged by Tanden’s confrontational tweets have gone out of their way to sidestep Twitter attacks by former President Donald Trump.
Tanden has also draw ire from the left, where her strained relationship with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., led some progressives to question her nomination. Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget committee, one of two panels tasked with overseeing her confirmation, pointedly grilled Tanden about past “vicious attacks” made against him and and other progressives.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated White House support last week, praising her as a “leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis.”
Biden, however, appeared to acknowledge that Tanden’s confirmation could collapse.
“We’re going to push,” he said last week. “We still think there’s a shot, a good shot.”
Psaki told reporters last week Tanden talked with 44 senators since she was first named. The team behind Biden’s Cabinet confirmations worked with Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations, labor unions, members of the business community, female business leaders, and faith leaders to reach out to lawmakers on Tanden’s behalf.
Democrats have praised Tanden for a career that’s focused on advocating for American families, a passion that she says was informed by her own experience as the daughter of an Indian immigrant and single parent.
Tanden highlighted her personal story as she sought the nomination, pointing to her mother’s reliance on food stamps and subsidized housing after her parents’ divorce as evidence of commitment to the federal programs she would oversee at OMB.
Described by Biden as “a brilliant policy mind with critical practical experience across government,” Tanden has moved in Democratic political circles dating back to the Clinton administration, where she served as White House associate director for domestic policy and as a domestic policy advisor for then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
In the waning months of the administration, Tanden joined Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign in New York, cementing their longstanding friendship that would extend to Clinton’s presidential runs in 2008 and 2016. It was during her time as an adviser to Clinton that Tanden clashed with Sanders, then Clinton’s rival during the Democratic presidential primary, and members of the progressive wing of the party.
Under the Obama administration, Tanden a played a pivotal role in helping former President Barack Obama craft his signature Affordable Care Act as a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services.
She has been involved with the CAP since its founding in 2003 by John Podesta, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and an Obama adviser, before succeeding him as its president and CEO in 2011.