Neera Tanden’s nomination to be President Joe Biden’s budget chief is in even more trouble.
Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney said on Monday they will oppose Tanden to lead the White House Budget Office, dealing a decisive blow to her hopes of confirmation. And Democrats aren’t even sure whether Tanden will receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Tanden’s bid to become director of the Office of Management and Budget first became imperiled Friday, when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he would oppose her, citing her controversial Twitter feed. Without support from Manchin in an evenly divided Senate, Tanden needs backing from at least one Republican. Moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has not yet said how she will vote and seem to be Biden’s best and only hope. The Alaska Republican told reporters Monday evening that she is “still visiting” the nomination.
Yet without Romney or Collins supporting her nomination, it’s increasingly unlikely that Tanden will be confirmed. Tanden would be the first Biden cabinet nominee to fail. She is scheduled to receive a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and the Budget Committees this week. Moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is often aligned with Manchin, sits on the Homeland Security committee but has not declared her position on Tanden.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said it was “too soon” to say whether Tanden would receive a vote on the Senate floor, but also “too soon” to say whether Biden should pull her nomination.
“We need to measure what support she may have among other Republicans,” Durbin said. He said he would try to change Manchin’s mind but “it may have passed that point.” Conversations with Republicans, he said, were just beginning.
Manchin said he had a “very nice conversation” with Tanden on Monday afternoon but that he is not changing his position. When asked whether Tanden should withdraw, the West Virginia Democrat suggested the administration could find other votes.
“I’m all about bipartisanship. I really am. I told her that: This is not personal at all,” Manchin said in an interview. “There’s a time for bipartisanship to begin. We’ll see what happens on the other side.”
Judging from Collins and Romney’s statements Monday, getting Republican support will be a herculean effort.
“Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency,” Collins (R-Maine) said Monday morning. “Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.”
Collins added that Tanden’s decision to delete tweets before her nomination “raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.”
Prior to her nomination, Tanden tweeted that Collins was “the worst,” called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “Voldemort” and criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Budget Committee. In one tweet, Tanden said “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal emails did to help Hillary,” a reference to Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
During her confirmation hearing, Tanden apologized for her tweets and said her approach would be “radically different.”
But Romney said Monday that he had “great concern” after Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) read her past tweets during the hearing. The Utah Republican said his staff dug into Tanden’s record and found that “consistent with things I’ve said and done in the past, I could not support her in this circumstance.”
Despite dwindling support for Tanden from the Senate’s most moderate members, the White House is showing no signs of conceding defeat. White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Monday morning that Tanden is an “accomplished policy expert” and would be the first Asian-American women to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
“Looking ahead to the committee votes this week and continuing to work toward her confirmation,” Psaki said.
Tanden also needs support from another influential Senate Democratic centrist, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, in order to keep her meager hopes of confirmation alive. Sinema has remained steadfastly undecided on the nomination.
Portman, the top Republican on the Homeland Security panel and a former White House budget director under President George W. Bush, also said Monday that he will not support Tanden, despite having backed all of Biden’s previous cabinet nominees.
In his statement, the Ohio Republican said that the “tone, the content, and the aggressive partisanship of some of Ms. Tanden’s public statements will make it more difficult for her to work effectively with both parties in this role.”
Senate Democrats are not calling for her withdrawal. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Monday that Tanden’s nomination was not over, but he added that “obviously with a 50-50 Senate, when you get a no vote on the Democratic side, it’s complicated.”