Neera Tanden withdraws nomination to lead budget office

Her strongly worded tweets were central to the opposition to her candidacy from Senators on both sides of the aisle.

The Biden administration will stop pursuing the nomination of Indian American Neera Tanden for Director of the powerful Office of Management & Budget (OBM), after Ms. Tanden wrote to the President withdrawing her nomination on Tuesday.

It had increasingly become clear that Ms. Tanden could not win enough support in an evenly divided Senate. Her strongly worded tweets were central to the opposition to her candidacy from Senators on both sides of the aisle, as was her work at the Centre for American Progress, a liberal think tank that Ms. Tanden has led.

Had she won the nomination, Ms. Tanden would have become the first person of colour to lead the White House budget office, which decides funding priorities and ensures that agency rules and proposed legislation are in sync with the administration’s policies and budget.

Ms. Tanden, who was an adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 and 2008 campaigns, worked as a director for domestic policy in the Bill Clinton White House and also advised Barack Obama in his 2008 campaign.

Her nomination has been at risk ever since Joe Manchin, a moderate Democratic Senator from West Virginia, had opposed her candidacy last month, saying that 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.”

After the November election, Ms. Tanden deleted over 1,000 tweets as per reports and during her confirmation hearing she had repeatedly apologised for her comments.

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‘Double standards’

Mr. Manchin and Republicans opposing Ms. Tanden were criticised by Democrats for adopting double standards for supporting Trump nominees who had made social media attacks and had greater conflicts of interest. Former President Donald Trump himself is known to make verbal or written personal attacks on his political opponents.

“Her nomination is very significant for us Asian American and Pacific Islanders. I do believe that this double standards has to do with the fact that she would be a pioneer in that position,” Judy Chu, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, had said about the Tanden confirmation in February.

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the budget committee that grilled Ms. Tanden, had also expressed concern over her suitability for the job during the confirmation hearing. He had asked Ms. Tanden if she would be influenced by corporations that had donated to the Center for American Progress and brought up attacks from Ms. Tanden against him and his staff (a reference to a 2008 incident with Faiz Shakir, who eventually ran the 2016 Sanders campaign).

The White House persisted with Ms. Tanden’s nomination despite the growing uncertainty, hoping to make up for opposition from the Democratic side of the aisle with support from moderate Republicans.

With centrist Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine having signalled their opposition to Ms. Tanden, things reached an inflection point this week following a meeting between Ms. Tanden and moderate Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. President Joe Biden and Ms. Tanden had decided on Tuesday evening to give up her nomination, the New York Times reported, though Ms. Murkowski said she had never confirmed opposing Ms. Tanden.

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“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,” Ms. Taden wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden on Tuesday, a copy of which was released by the White House.

Different role

Saying he accepted Ms. Tanden’s decision to withdraw her nomination, Mr. Biden suggested a different role in the administration for her.

“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,” he said as per a statement released by the White House.

While no clear replacement is in place, Shalanda Young, nominated to the role of OBM Deputy Director, appears to be a frontrunner.

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