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Neera Tanden withdraws as Cabinet nominee after facing opposition

Daniel Strauss and agencies
·4 min read

Watch: Biden's controversial budget pick Neera Tanden withdraws from nomination process

Joe Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators over her past controversial tweets.

Her withdrawal marks the president’s first failure as he seeks Senate confirmation for his cabinet nominees.

“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. “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.”

Tanden’s confirmation had faced increasingly steep odds. Republican senators who opposed her nomination cited tweets attacking members of both parties prior to her nomination. And last week, Joe Manchin, a conservative Democratic senator, announced he would oppose her nomination, also citing her tweets. That left Tanden short of the majority of votes needed on the Senate floor and in the committees involved.

Related: Biden under pressure from progressives as he prepares to pick first judges

Manchin, a key moderate swing vote in the Senate, said last month: “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.”

Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, meanwhile, cited Biden’s own standard of conduct in opposing Tanden, declaring in a statement: “Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.”

Tanden was an unexpected choice to run Biden’s budget team. She is a longtime ally of Hillary Clinton and has often vocally criticized both Republicans and Democrats, especially supporters of Bernie Sanders. Tanden has said in her confirmation hearings that she regretted the past statements, but that wasn’t enough to sway the required number of senators.

Photograph: Reuters
Photograph: Reuters

Eleven of Biden’s 23 cabinet nominees requiring Senate approval have been confirmed, most with strong bipartisan support.

“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,” Tanden wrote in a letter to Biden.

Tanden needed just 51 votes in an evenly divided Senate, with Kamala Harris, the vice-president, acting as a tiebreaker. But without Manchin’s support, the White House was left scrambling to find a Republican to support her.

One potential Republican vote, Lisa Murkowski, a senator from Alaska, told reporters earlier Tuesday that she still had not yet made up her mind on Tanden’s nomination.

The White House had stuck with Tanden even after a number of centrist Republicans made their opposition known, insisting her experience growing up on welfare and background working on progressive policies while running the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress made her the right candidate for the moment.

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, initially insisted the administration was “fighting our guts out” for her.

Tanden apologized during her confirmation hearing to “people on either the left or right who are hurt by what I’ve said”. Just prior to the hearing, she deleted hundreds of tweets, many of which were critical of Republicans.

Collins cited those deleted tweets in her statement, saying that the move “raises concerns about her commitment to transparency”. She said Congress “has to be able to trust the OMB director to make countless decisions in an impartial manner, carrying out the letter of the law and congressional intent”.

The head of the Office of Management and Budget is tasked with putting together the administration’s budget, as well as overseeing a wide range of logistical and regulatory issues across the federal government.

Tanden’s withdrawal leaves the Biden administration without a clear replacement. The apparent frontrunner is Shalanda Young, a former staff director for the House appropriations committee who has been actively pushed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Other names mentioned include Ann O’Leary, a former chief of staff for Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, and Gene Sperling, who served as a top economic adviser to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Biden’s cabinet is slow to fill as some of his nominations hit hurdles on the way to confirmation. The president’s prospective health secretary, Xavier Becerra, faces a crucial committee vote in the Senate finance committee, where he is taking heat from Republicans for his support of abortion rights.

Watch: Biden promises vaccine for all U.S. adults by May