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As Biden Backs Indian-American Budget Pick Neera Tanden, 3 Senators Oppose Nomination


Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has backed Neera Tanden. (File)

Washington:

Indian-American Neera Tanden’s chances of becoming the first woman of colour to head the White House Office of Management of Budget (OMB) appears to be in jeopardy with three Republican senators along with at least one Democrat announcing their decision to vote against her Senate confirmation process later this week, citing her past social media behaviour.

Ms Tanden reportedly deleted more than 1,000 tweets before her confirmation process started. She had apologised to senators during her confirmation hearings earlier this month.

White House said on Monday that it is taking nothing to chances and is reaching out to both the Democrat and Republican senators to get Ms Tanden’s confirmation through the evenly split United States Senate.

“We take nothing for granted. And part of our effort is not just reaching out to Republicans — which we certainly are doing, and all of our nominees do as well — but also ensuring that Democrats who have questions, who have any concerns, have their questions answered too. And we take nothing for granted in pushing forward with our nominees,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.

Soon thereafter, Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio announced that he would vote against Ms Tanden, 50, during the confirmation process. 

The two other Senators who have already announced their opposition are Republicans Susan Collins and Mitt Romney. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has already announced that he will vote against her.

Democrats hold the Senate by a 50-50 margin, and Manchin’s announcement last week was seen as devastating for her chances.

Mr Portman alleged that the tone, the content, and the aggressive partisanship of some of Ms Tanden’s public statements will make it more difficult for her to work effectively with both parties in this role.

“I’m also concerned about her decision to delete thousands of tweets in the month after the election and the lack of transparency in her decision to do so, as well as her lack of experience on key issues for OMB, such as the regulatory and budgeting processes. While the president has the right to choose his own Cabinet, and thus far I have supported all of this administration’s nominees, I will not be supporting the confirmation of Ms. Tanden,” Mr Portman said.

Mr Portman served as OMB Director under former President George W. Bush. “As a former OMB Director, I know that the OMB Director has to be able to work productively with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

OMB serves the President of the United States in overseeing the implementation of his vision across the executive branch.

In a separate statement, Senator Susan Collins said that Ms Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency.

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“Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend,” she alleged.

“In addition, Ms Tanden’s decision to delete more than a thousand tweets in the days before her nomination was announced raises concerns about her commitment to transparency. Should Congress need to review documents or actions taken by OMB, we must have confidence that the Director will be forthcoming,” she said.

“The OMB needs steady, experienced, responsive leadership. I will vote against confirming Ms. Tanden,” said Susan Collins, who had joined the Democrats during the Trump impeachment trial.

Romney, who had supported the Democrats in the Trump impeachment trial, also opposed the nomination.

“Senator Romney has been critical of extreme rhetoric from prior nominees, and this is consistent with that position. He believes it’s hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets,” Romney’s press secretary Arielle Mueller said in a statement.

President Joe Biden last week said he would not pull Ms Tanden’s nomination and has enough votes to get her confirmation.

Meanwhile, Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) sent a letter to all 100 members of the Senate urging them to support Tanden’s confirmation.

“Ms. Tanden’s substantial policy, legislative, and executive branch experience makes her exceptionally qualified to lead the OMB and ensure that our nation”s budgets and programmes reflect our shared values of hard work, fairness, and respect. As a daughter of a single mother who relied on public housing and food stamps to survive, Ms. Tanden understands firsthand the struggles that many Americans face every day and the pivotal role that the government can play in levelling the playing field and creating an economy that works for working families,” wrote the Members.

“Ms. Tanden’s nomination also bears historic significance for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities that we represent. If confirmed, she would be the first Asian American and first woman of colour to lead OMB,” they wrote.

The letter was led by CAPAC Chair Congresswoman Judy Chu and signed by Congressmen Grace Meng, Mark Takano, Ted Lieu, Doris Matsui, Ami Bera, Andy Kim, Raja Kirshnamoorthi, Marilyn Strickland, and Kaiali’i Kahele.

“As a former senior advisor during the Clinton and Obama administrations, a former legislative director in the US Senate, and in her role as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress, Ms. Tanden is widely recognised as an expert in domestic, economic, and foreign policy,” they wrote.


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