As President-elect Joe Biden reveals his economic team, one nominee already is facing stiff resistance from Senate Republicans, leading Democrats to rally in her defense ahead of what could prove to be a rough and tumble confirmation process.
Neera Tanden, Biden’s choice to become director of the Office of Management and Budget, is celebrated by the president-elect’s team for her career pursuing policies in support of working families and what they call “broad-based” economic growth.
She is also the former policy director for the first Obama-Biden campaign and now serves as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, a role in which she has frequently clashed with Republicans, though she evidently has attempted to clean up her Twitter account in recent weeks — deleting hundreds of tweets.
“As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever,” Biden stated in his announcement naming Tanden and the other members of his economic team. “This team looks like America and brings seriousness of purpose, the highest degree of competency, and unwavering belief in the promise of America. They will be ready on day one to get to work for all Americans.”
If confirmed, Tanden, 50, would be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to lead the OMB.
The director of the Office of Management and Budget, while not a marquee Cabinet post in the presidential line of succession, is a critical economic adviser who has sometimes doubled as the president’s fiscal disciplinarian, serving as a check within the executive branch on any far-fetched spending plans fancied by other Cabinet members.
Known as a frequent political commentator on cable television, Tanden has been criticized for her past tweets blasting Republican lawmakers, as well as tacitly perpetuating a conspiracy that Russians hacked voter rolls in 2016 to take votes away from Hillary Clinton in favor of Donald Trump. Republicans also point out that she’s signaled support to cut Social Security benefits following the 2010 midterm elections when the Tea Party swept Republicans into the House majority.
After news broke Sunday that Biden was poised to announce Tanden as his selection for the wonky role, one Republican senator sent a warning shot, calling her “radioactive” and suggesting she is Biden’s “worst nominee so far” – a signal that her confirmation may be impossible.
“In light of her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, that it creates certainly a problematic path,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. “I’ve noted that she’s apparently deleted a lot of our previous tweets in the last couple of weeks, which … seems pretty juvenile, and I mean it’s as if people don’t have access to it.”
Additional Republicans have highlighted her policy views as justification to oppose her nomination.
Republicans currently have locked up 50 seats in the Senate for the next session of Congress, as two other GOP incumbents fight to win run-offs in early January. If Sens. Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue win, then the Senate will remain in Republican hands and Biden’s nominees would have to win bipartisan support in order to earn confirmation. If both lose, then the Senate power would be split and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast potential tie-breaking votes to shift control to Democrats.
Tanden will also need to win initial approval from the Senate Budget Committee, led on the Democratic side by Sen. Bernie Sanders, someone she has clashed with since the 2016 presidential campaign.
While Sanders has remained muted in the wake of Biden’s announcement naming the Clinton loyalist as his nominee for OMB director, other Democrats have publicly rallied to her defense.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Monday that Biden’s Cabinet nominations should receive hearings in January “immediately” after the Georgia runoff elections, adding that Republicans are “grasping at straws” to explain their opposition to Biden’s nominees, including Tanden.
“I fully expect to see some crocodile tears spilled on the other side of the aisle over President-elect Biden’s Cabinet nominees, but it will be very tough to take those crocodile tears seriously,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “Our Republican colleagues are on the record supporting some of the least qualified most unethical and downright sycophantic nominees in recent memory.”
Given the uphill climb that many of his nominees will face in their confirmation battles, Biden’s selection of a political lightning rod like Tanden signals that the future president will not shy away from choosing nominees who are no strangers to controversy.
“In Neera Tanden, the President-elect’s team gets another deeply experienced and historic nomination,” stated Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, the future chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “Tanden would be the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and her policy experience and devotion to strengthening the middle class are beyond question.”
The Biden transition team trumpets Tanden as a policy veteran of multiple presidential administrations who has advocated for policies designed to support working families, citing her experience as a child relying on food stamps and Section 8 housing.
Aside from her tenure at the Center for American Progress, Tanden serves on the New Jersey Restart and Recovery Commission, and previously served as senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developing policies and provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as director of domestic policy for the first Obama-Biden presidential campaign.
A native of Bedford, Massachusetts, she received her bachelor of science degree from UCLA and her law degree from Yale Law School.
“I’ve known @neeratanden for over 2 decades,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., tweeted. “She’s brilliant and laser-focused on making our country a fairer place for all.”
“I’ve worked closely with Neera Tanden for a number of years, and I know that she will be a tremendous asset to President-elect Biden as he works with Congress to invest in a stronger economy for all Americans,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., added.
ABC News’ Trish Turner and Allie Pecorin contributed to this report.