Vivek Murthy and Neera Tanden nominations run into trouble

WASHINGTON: What would be a celebratory moment in PIO chronicles in America in terms of representation at the political high table is in jeopardy. Vivek Murthy and Neera Tanden, the two Indian-American nominees for cabinet-level positions in the Biden administration, are both facing headwinds in the confirmation process in a tightly-divided Senate now steeped in partisan politics.
Tapped to be the US surgeon general with an enhanced remit to including pandemic response, Vivek Murthy’s liberal credentials that has met conservative opposition in the past is now compounded by coronavirus-related financial entanglements that are drawing scrutiny ahead of his confirmation this week.
Murthy, according to media reports, has earned millions of dollars over the past year as a coronavirus consultant to the private sector, raising questions about his credibility and efficacy as a presidential adviser on the hot button issue.
Murthy, according to the reports, disclosed at least $2.6 million in consulting fees and speaking engagements since January 2020, in addition to serving as an adviser to four companies that focus on health services and products, as per his ethics submission before a Senate panel set to hear his testimony.
The earnings include $400,000 from Carnival Corporation — the parent company of the virus-stricken cruise ships the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess. He also received $410,000 in cash and 2,000 stock shares from Airbnb for advising them on virus safety protocols to navigate the pandemic.
In Tanden’s case, her well-chronicled history of attacking Senate grandees, including Republican leader Mitch McConnell and progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders, had met with unforgiving censure. Large corporate donations to the Center for American Progress, the think-tank she headed, has also resulted in questions about whether she will function without bias as the head of the Office of Management and Budget for which Biden has nominated her.
The key figure in the confirmation process is Senator Joe Manchin, who calls himself a “moderate conservative Democrat” from West Virginia.
Political compulsion of hailing from a Conservative Republican state dictate that he oppose liberal nominees, and he has signaled that he will vote against Tanden, and possibly Murthy, in a Senate tied at 50-50. If he carries through with his opposition, the Murthy and Tanden nominations will be defeated 51-49 even if it gets past the committee hearing stage and reaches a vote in the Senate, Kamala Harris‘ tie-breaker vote not coming into play.
President Biden has said he will not withdraw Tanden’s nomination amid search for at least one moderate Republican vote that can carry her through. No word yet about Murthy’s fate.

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