White House Withdraws Neera Tanden’s Nomination as OMB Chief

President Joe Biden suffered his first major setback in filling his cabinet Tuesday as Neera Tanden withdrew from consideration to lead the Office of Management and Budget after facing opposition from senators over her partisanship.

Biden said in a statement that he had accepted Tanden’s request and would find another place for her. “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,” he said.

Tanden, who led the liberal Center for American Progress for nearly a decade, is Biden’s first cabinet-level nominee to fail to reach confirmation, as the Senate slowly considers remaining nominees.

Her selection in late November touched off an angry backlash on the right and the left over sarcastic Twitter posts that were critical of her political opponents, including supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and as well as prominent Republicans. Several of those targets would be voting on her nomination.

That nomination had been in trouble for more than a week, after Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, announced he would oppose her. No Republican senator came forward to offer support, and Sanders, now the Senate Budget Committee chairman, had not said how he would decide.

Had every Democrat backed her, she wouldn’t have needed any Republican votes to clear the evenly divided Senate, which Democrats control because Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties.

Other Holdout Senators?

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, had been one of the final holdouts in saying how she’d vote and told reporters on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday that she was still undecided. Murkowski said the White House never asked how she would vote before the withdrawal, an indication Tanden may have faced opposition from other holdout senators.

Moving forward with Tanden’s doomed nomination could have eroded Biden’s political capital at a time he is urging Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion virus rescue package, a second large spending and infrastructure plan and an immigration overhaul.

Biden will likely face pressure to choose a woman or minority as his next nominee. Tanden, who is Indian American, would have been the first woman of color to serve as budget director.

Biden’s nominee for the deputy role at OMB, Shalanda Young, has emerged as a strong contender. She appeared before the Senate Budget Committee, one of two panels considering her nomination, on Tuesday. The Budget Committee’s top Republican, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he would vote for her nomination as deputy and “maybe” for director as well.

As the top Democratic staff member on the House Appropriations Committee, Young has been at the center of talks to finance the government since March 2017. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been advocating for her since last week.

Other Potential Candidates

Other potential candidates include Gene Sperling, the former Obama and Clinton National Economic Council director, and Ann O’Leary, the former chief of staff to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The collapse of Tanden’s nomination marked a setback for the transition of power, which was already delayed by Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat in last November’s election and the subsequent insurrection at the Capitol spurred on by the former president’s unfounded claims of voter fraud.

The release of Biden’s first presidential budget could face additional delays without a confirmed budget director in place. White House officials have said that a lack of cooperation from Trump administration officials during the transition hampered the process. Trump’s last budget director, Russell Vought, has disputed claims that his office obstructed Biden’s incoming staff.

The head of OMB is responsible for drafting and releasing the president’s budget request -- an annual wish-list of the administration’s spending and policy priorities. The office also coordinates on policy and regulation with federal agencies.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.