Biden’s pick for key Cabinet job loses nomination over mean tweets

Washington: US President Joe Biden withdrew the nomination of longtime Democratic policy adviser Neera Tanden to serve as his budget director, the administration’s first defeat in filling a Cabinet post.

“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 on Tuesday night (US time).

Nomination withdrawn: Neera Tanden.Credit:AP

The collapse of Tanden’s nomination underscored the fragility of the slim Democratic majority in the evenly split Senate, where Vice-President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker, and the power each senator holds on party-line votes.

Tanden was opposed by Republican lawmakers who cited her acrimonious tweets attacking them during the Trump years, when she was serving as the director of a progressive think tank in Washington.

The White House had hoped to persuade Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to cast a decisive vote in support of Tanden, in defiance of her party’s united opposition to the nomination.

“High on her own supply”: Senator Lisa Murkowski was not persuaded to support Tanden.Credit:Bloomberg

On Tuesday evening, Murkowski told reporters she had not made a decision on the nomination.

Murkowski was not spared in Tanden’s caustic Twitter feed. As Republicans crafted their tax bill in late 2017, Tanden tweeted that Murkowski was “high on your own supply” and that her defence of the bill was “all garbage.”

Tanden’s candidacy became imperiled last month when moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia announced that he would not support her nomination, leaving the White House in the position of having to win at least one Republican’s vote to secure her confirmation.

Senator Joe Manchin, the Democrat who voted against Biden’s nominee.Credit:Not for syndication

Manchin cited Tanden’s history of partisan tweets as the reason behind his decision.

“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,” he said.

“We must take meaningful steps to end the political division and dysfunction that pervades our politics.”

Other Democrats supported Tanden’s nomination, pointing to her history as a policy adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

She also told a compelling personal story about the role government programs have played in her own life as the daughter of a single mother who relied on public housing and nutrition programs.

Tanden, who would have been the first Indian American woman to serve in the post, had been scheduled to receive a vote in the Senate Homeland Security committee late last month, but the vote was cancelled at the last minute.

Since then, the White House continued to express confidence. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at one point that Tanden “has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the US Chamber of Commerce to labour unions, and has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden’s Cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB.”

It is unclear how much muscle the White House put into rallying Republican votes for Tanden. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, said recently that he had spoken with White House officials twice in previous days and Tanden’s nomination did not come up. He served as director of the office during the Bush administration and is retiring after his current term, both factors that might have given Democrats reason to seek his support.

Portman ultimately said he would oppose the nomination. He, Romney, Collins and Murkowski have supported every other Biden Cabinet post that has come up for a Senate vote.

TNS

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