Neera Tanden is Biden’s first Cabinet-level nominee to withdraw

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Senate Homeland Security Committee Hears Testimony From Nominee For OMB Director Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden, nominee for director of the Office and Management and Budget, speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on February 9, 2021, in Washington, DC. | Ting Shen/Getty Images

After a tough few weeks, Tanden announced she’s withdrawing her nomination as OMB director.

President Joe Biden has lost his first Cabinet-level pick.

Neera Tanden, the embattled nominee for Biden’s Office of Management and Budget director, has officially withdrawn her nomination for the position after days of uncertainty over whether she had enough votes to be confirmed in the US Senate.

“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, the president of the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, said in a statement released Tuesday.

With her withdrawal, Tanden becomes the first nominee to a White House Cabinet post to be sunk by her old tweets, which were sharply critical of a number of lawmakers. Biden’s administration had emphasized the historic nature of Tanden’s nomination; she served in President Bill Clinton’s White House and had experience running a major think tank, and if confirmed, she would have been the first woman of color and first Asian American woman to lead OMB.

But much of Tanden’s résumé was overshadowed by her proliferous online posting — at least 1,000 tweets raking both Republicans and leftist Democrats over the coals — that Tanden quietly started deleting in November 2020.

Tanden’s decision comes after an intense few days of trying to win over Republican senators whose votes she needed to get confirmed. In a Senate where Democrats have a one-vote majority, Tanden needed Republican support given she had already lost a critical Democratic vote she needed in West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who recently announced he’d oppose Tanden’s confirmation.

Tanden and the Biden White House had been holding out hope that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), might flip and give them the one vote they needed. Indeed, up until Tanden officially withdrew her nomination, Murkowski had told reporters she was still undecided on the nomination.

Biden released a statement accepting Tanden’s resignation, and mentioned that he’d like to find another spot for her in his administration, one where she wouldn’t need Senate confirmation.

“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,” Biden said in the statement.

Biden’s administration could have a quick replacement for Tanden

On Tuesday, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young had her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Budget Committee. And it went much better than Tanden’s had weeks prior.

Young is a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, with deep ties to the Hill and respect from lawmakers and staffers on both sides of the aisle. Also importantly, she does not have a Twitter account.

While Republican senators had plenty of spent time admonishing Tanden for her social media posts in her hearing, they had relatively glowing things to say about Young.

“Everybody who deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say. You might talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Young during her Tuesday hearing.

With Republicans looking likely to vote to confirm Young, the Biden administration may well want to move her up to Tanden’s spot. Some Republicans, including Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby of Alabama, had already said they’d vote to confirm Young if she were Tanden’s replacement.

And with congressional Democrats looking poised to soon pass a major Covid-19 stimulus bill through Congress using budget reconciliation, the Biden administration will likely want to quickly confirm a head of OMB — a key office tasked with planning and overseeing the implementation of the federal budget once Congress passes it.

Tanden’s dilemma demonstrates the tricky math of an evenly split Senate and the power of individual senators to stymie pieces of Biden’s agenda. Even though Tanden did plenty to anger the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party over the years, moderates were ultimately the ones who sank her.

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