President Biden is standing by Neera Tanden, Xavier Becerra amid uphill confirmation battles.
President Biden is standing behind a pair of Cabinet picks facing uphill battles — including Neera Tanden, his nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and Xavier Becerra, his pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services — as a growing number of senators have vowed to oppose their confirmations.
Tanden’s confirmation appears to be the most in jeopardy after several swing vote senators — including at least one Democrat — have announced plans to vote against her confirmation. The former president of the liberal Center for American Progress repeatedly came under fire during her confirmation hearing, as Republicans pointed to hostile tweets she posted against various lawmakers — many of which she deleted late last year.
During that hearing, Sen. Ron Portman, R-Ohio, gave examples of “a few of the thousands of negative public statements” Tanden has made. These included her calling Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, “the worst” and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a “fraud,” saying that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” and referring to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as “Moscow Mitch” and “Voldemort,” referring to the Harry Potter villain.
Portman said that even after Tanden deleted tweets, there were still nine pages of posts about Cruz that were still up.
“I wonder, specifically, how do you plan to mend fences and build relationships with members of Congress you have attacked through your public statements?” Portman asked.
“I recognize the concern,” Tanden replied. “I deeply regret and apologize for my language — some of my past language. I recognize that this role is a bipartisan role, and I know I have to earn the trust of senators across the board. I will work very aggressively to meet that concern.”
Tanden said she hopes to work “in a bipartisan and nonpartisan manner,” while acknowledging that “it’s upon me to prove that to this committee and to members.”
But following the hearing, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said he would oppose her nomination, citing her tweets, and saying that 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.”
“For this reason, I cannot support her nomination,” Manchin said.
Manchin’s opposition meant Tanden will need Republican support. But that effort to woo a Republican was hampered when Collins also said Monday she would vote against Tanden—dealing another blow to her confirmation.
“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 in a statement on Monday. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency.”
But the White House is still standing behind her, vowing not to pull her nomination, even though it’s unclear how Tanden will cobble together enough votes.
“The president nominated her because he thought she would be stellar,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, noting her experience.
When asked if they still felt her confirmation was possible, Psaki said: “We do.”
Meanwhile, another Biden pick is facing heightened scrutiny, with Becerra getting ready for his confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday as Republicans have signaled plans to focus on trying to torpedo his nomination. But he could also have problems with Democrats: Manchin’s office says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll support Becerra.