Why Neera Tanden’s Nomination Failed

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Thursday, March 18, 2021


After a tumultuous Senate confirmation campaign, President Biden has withdrawn Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The nomination was a mess from the start. Tanden has been a Clinton loyalist for decades, dating back to her work as an advisor to the 42nd President. More recently, Tanden was the President of the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank. 

During her time at CAP, Tanden was a progressive warrior on Twitter, a role that naturally involved critiquing conservative leaders, especially Republican Senators. Tanden’s deleted tweets, which quickly resurfaced upon her nomination, ranged from partisan vitriol to deranged conspiracy theories. Tanden remarked that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz”. She referred to Senator McConnell as “Moscow Mitch”, aligning herself with the fringe belief that the Minority Leader had some sort of allegiance to Russia. However, Tanden’s rhetorical attacks were not just directed towards Republicans. 

As a Clinton devotee, Tanden made plenty of enemies in the socialist wing of the Democratic Party. During and after the 2016 primary, Tanden engaged in the intra-partisan infighting common between the Clinton and Sanders camps. Upon her nomination, left-wing commentators also expressed frustration with Tanden’s history of divisive rhetoric.

Naturally, during her confirmation hearing, multiple Republican Senators grilled Tanden for her past remarks. For his part, Senator Sanders also asked Tanden about whether her previous remarks would impact her conduct in the Biden administration. After being reminded of her questionable tweets, Tanden apologized, saying she regretted her language.

Although her tweets have gotten the most coverage, Tanden had other skeletons in her closet. Tanden was accused of assaulting a reporter during her time as a staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. According to a report, then-Senator Clinton was asked by a journalist about her vote on the Iraq war. Tanden allegedly followed up with the reporter in question, Faiz Shakir, by punching him. Tanden claims that she merely pushed Shakir. 

Tanden has also received criticism for her handling of workplace harassment allegations during her tenure as President of CAP. A junior staffer at the organization quit after voicing concerns that CAP had created a culture where victims of sexual harassment feared retaliation. Two days later, Tanden held an all-staff meeting, in which she disclosed the name of the previously-anonymous victim. Aso, a recent report on Tanden’s history at CAP includes claims from former employees that Tanden disparaged her subordinates based on their physical appearance.

Nevertheless, Tanden’s nomination appeared on track to narrowly survive the confirmation process; however, that all came to a halt when Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat, announced his opposition to Tanden, questioning her ability to work in a bipartisan manner. With the slim Democratic majority in the Senate, Manchin’s decision meant that Tanden would need the support of at least one Republican to be confirmed. 

In response, progressive leaders accused Manchin of bigotry. Democrat Congresswoman Grace Meng insinuated that racial bias impacted the confirmation process. Rachel Maddow similarly implied that Tanden’s gender played a role in Manchin’s decision not to support her nomination; Maddow concluded that Manchin’s decision will be a “stain on his reputation”. 

Regardless of the outrage, in the week that followed, multiple Republican swing votes announced their agreement with Manchin. Susan Collins expressed concern with Tanden’s temperament while Rob Portman critiqued her rhetoric and lack of experience. Tanden’s nomination was on the brink of collapse.

Despite this, the White House pushed forward with Tanden’s nomination; Jen Paski said the Biden administration would “continue to fight” for her confirmation. The White House seemed confident that Lisa Murkowski, who was yet to declare a position on Tanden, would consider supporting the embattled nominee. Murkowski seemed open to voting for Tanden, as such, the two had a meeting Monday. Behind the scenes, the Senator was attempting to leverage her position, using her vote on the nomination as a bargaining chip with the President. However, the White House was not interested in negotiating with Murkowski. Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn shortly after her meeting with the Senator.

Tanden’s withdrawal is certainly not an anomaly, each presidential transition since 1989 has failed to confirm one of its cabinet nominees. However, the circumstances of the Tanden debacle might represent a return to a more civil political atmosphere; a world where individuals with a history of mismanagement, assault, and mudslinging are actually held accountable in the political arena. Paradoxically, a respectful political culture is exactly what President Biden claimed he wanted to instill. Yet Biden nominated an individual who frequently engaged in the name-calling and partisanship that he claims to detest. Fortunately, the Senate fulfilled its constitutional duty as a check on the president and held Joe Biden to his own standard.

Ben Snead lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Ben Snead

Ben Snead lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon.

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