Neera Tanden’s imperiled nomination to be President Joe Biden’s budget director faces a major test Wednesday to see if she has enough support to win Senate confirmation amid bipartisan opposition.
Two Senate committees are expected to vote on whether to advance her nomination to the floor as Tanden faces resistance from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist from West Virginia, and a wide array of Republicans, who have said they will not back her because of her past partisan criticisms aimed at lawmakers in sharp attacks at odds with Biden’s pledges of civility and unity.
If Tanden’s nomination stalls out, it would be the first defeat of a high-profile Biden pick subject to Senate approval and would underscore the narrow margin of error Democrats must contend with in a Senate with a 50-50 partisan split.
The embattled nominee stands a chance of winning confirmation if she wins the support of moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, but it is far from clear that will happen.
Sinema sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, one of the two committees slated to take up the nomination on Wednesday, and has so far refused to say how she will vote.
Asked if he believes all Democrats on his panel will support the nominee, Sen. Gary Peters, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security committee, told CNN on Tuesday, “I haven’t talked to all of them but I believe we will.”
Murkowski has indicated she won’t make a decision until after the committee vote. “I’ve got time,” she said when asked when she would make her position known.
The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is also expected to vote on the nomination on Wednesday. The Vermont senator — who has clashed with Tanden in the past — would not say Tuesday if he planned to support her for the position.
Tanden apologized and expressed regret over her past tweets during Senate confirmation hearings earlier this month.
In a statement announcing his opposition to the nomination, Manchin said that Tanden’s comments on Twitter about Sanders and Republican colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had led him to doubt she was the right fit.
“I have carefully reviewed Neera Tanden’s public statements and tweets that were personally directed towards my colleagues on both sides of the aisle from Senator Sanders to Senator McConnell and others. 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,” Manchin said in a statement. “For this reason, I cannot support her nomination.”
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had been viewed as a potential swing vote, similarly expressed opposition over Tanden’s rhetoric.
In a statement, Collins cited Tanden’s “past actions” and said the OMB nominee does not have the “experience nor the temperament” to lead the office.
“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,” Collins said. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency. Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.”
Collins also said that Tanden’s deletion of tweets before her confirmation was announced “raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.”
GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Tuesday called on Biden to withdraw the nomination given the stiff resistance she faces.
“My friendly advice to President Biden is to withdraw Neera Tanden’s nomination and select someone who at the very least has not … openly bashed people on both sides of the aisle that she happens to disagree with,” he said.