Key Senate committees postpone votes on Neera Tanden for Biden budget director

White House stands by Tanden who, if confirmed by the Senate, will be the first Indian-American, a woman of color, to head the Budget office

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, February 25, 2021 – In a key development, two Senate committees abruptly postponed planned business meetings, Wednesday morning, at which members were supposed to vote on Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Official notices were posted by both the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and Committee on the Budget announcing that Tanden’s markup is delayed, a move that does not bode well for her prospects to head the White House budget office.

“We are postponing the business meeting because members need more time to consider the nominee”, a Democratic aide on the Homeland Security committee said. “The president deserves to have a team in place that he wants and we’re going to work with our members to figure out the best path forward”.

Currently, Tanden serves as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, an organization dedicated to advancing policies that increase opportunity for every American. She herself has a compelling personal story, one that has shaped her outlook. As a child, she relied on food stamps and Section 8 housing – a social safety net that offered her single mother the foundation she needed to land a good job and lift her family to the middle class.

Biden has described Tanden as having a “brilliant policy mind with critical practical experience across government”. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first Indian-American and first woman of color to lead the OMB.

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“Budgets are not abstractions”, she says. “They are a reflection of our values. They touch our lives in profound ways, and sometimes they make all the difference”.

The White House remains staunch in standing by Tanden making it abundantly clear it is not pulling the nomination.

“Neera Tanden is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis”, press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Wednesday morning. “She also has important perspective and values, understanding firsthand the powerful difference policy can make in the lives of those going through hard times. She has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the US Chamber of Commerce to labor unions, and has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden’s cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB”.

Biden told reporters Tuesday afternoon he believes there is still a “good shot” of getting his budget pick confirmed.

“We’re going to push. We still think there’s a shot – a good shot”, he said.

Earlier, in a press briefing, Psaki asserted, “There is one candidate to lead the budget department. Her name is Neera Tanden”.

In a Twitter post, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell elected from the 15th District of California covering most of eastern Alameda County and part of central Contra Costa County, stated, “I represent one of the largest Indian-American districts in US. How do I look at what’s happening to Neera Tanden and tell little girls of South Asian descent that they’ll have the same opportunities in life as white men? The answer: I can’t. And that’s a shame”.

Tanden’s nomination has been in peril after Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced last week that he would vote against her confirmation citing her controversial social media posts targeting members of both parties. Tanden needs 51 votes in an evenly divided senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker.

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“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 (Bernie) Sanders to Senator (Mitch) McConnell and others”, Manchin said. “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 is in the news now and for all the wrong reasons! Given his record of supporting problematic nominees such as Brett Kavanaugh for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General during the Trump administration, he is being accused of applying a different litmus test for a woman of color.

It is also alleged the senator harbors a personal vendetta against Tanden who was vocal in condemning his daughter, Heather Manchin Bresch, of price gouging for the lifesaving drug EpiPen. As CEO of Mylan which produces the EpiPen, Bresch raised the price of the essential device to treat severe allergic reactions by a whopping 500 percent in less than a decade.

At the time of going to press, Senator Lisa Murkowski has not indicated how she will vote on the Tanden nomination. A moderate Republican from Alaska, she is considered one of the last GOP lawmakers who may vote in favor of Biden’s budget nominee allowing her to be confirmed.

Psaki noted that Tanden has rolled up her sleeves and is working the phones. Will it pay off in an evenly divided senate? It remains to be seen.

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