By Andrew Restuccia and Alex Leary
WASHINGTON -- The White House is withdrawing Neera Tanden's
nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget amid
opposition from Senate Republicans and a key Democrat, marking the
first failed confirmation push for one of President Biden's cabinet
Ms. Tanden asked that her nomination be withdrawn in a letter to
Mr. Biden in which she acknowledged she had little chance of being
"I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has
worked to win my confirmation," she wrote. "Unfortunately, it now
seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and
I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a
distraction from your other priorities.
Mr. Biden said in a statement, "I have the utmost respect for
her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I
look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration.
She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work."
White House chief of staff Ron Klain said last month that the
administration hoped to find a position for Ms. Tanden that didn't
require Senate confirmation if she were unable to win enough
The defeat came in what has been an otherwise relatively smooth
confirmation process for Mr. Biden's cabinet, despite a delayed
transition and the Senate spending a week on the impeachment trial
of former President Donald Trump. This week, Mr. Biden's picks to
run the Education Department and Commerce Department were
confirmed, and most of his nominees have gotten significant
Ms. Tanden, the leader of the center-left think tank the Center
for American Progress, had come under criticism from some lawmakers
for her past social-media comments, which included jabs at
senators. She compared Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to Voldemort,
the Harry Potter villain; referred to Sen. Susan Collins (R.,
Maine) as "the worst"; and said "vampires have more heart" than
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). She has also clashed with progressive
activists and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)
Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist West Virginia Democrat, said he
would oppose Ms. Tanden's nomination, citing her social-media
comments. To clear the full Senate, Ms. Tanden would have needed to
win the support of at least one Republican. The Senate is divided
evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and Vice President Kamala
Harris can break a tie.
Several Republicans known for crossing the aisle said they would
oppose her, and two Senate committees postponed votes on her
Until Tuesday night, the White House had maintained it would
stand behind Ms. Tanden.
Ms. Tanden met Monday with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of
Alaska in an attempt to shore up her support. Ms. Murkowski
declined again on Tuesday to say whether she would support Ms.
Ms. Murkowski said Tuesday night she had never told anyone at
the White House she opposed Ms. Tanden's nomination and the
administration never asked. The Alaska senator said she was looking
at Ms. Tanden's nomination with an open mind.
"This one was one that she had just generated her own level of
controversy, even really before she got to the committee because of
not only her position with CAP, but obviously the very public
focused tweets, " said Ms. Murkowski. "I said no, as bad as they
are, I think it's important to actually talk to her."
Some Capitol Hill aides said privately that the White House
didn't initially do enough to mount an aggressive campaign to
defend Ms. Tanden's nomination, noting that key lawmakers didn't
immediately hear from West Wing aides after Mr. Manchin announced
The White House dismissed those criticisms, noting that Ms.
Tanden had 46 meetings with senators and won the backing of several
key outside groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The White House informed Mr. Sanders, the Senate Budget
Committee chairman, earlier Tuesday that Mr. Biden was planning to
withdraw Ms. Tanden's nomination, according to an aide familiar
with the matter.
Shalanda Young, a longtime congressional staffer and Mr. Biden's
choice for deputy director of the budget office, is seen as a
leading contender to lead the OMB, people close to the White House
During a confirmation hearing for her deputy director nomination
on Tuesday, senators of both parties signaled they would support
"I think you're a highly qualified person for the job. Everybody
that deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to
say," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top
Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. "You might talk me out
of voting for you, but I doubt it."
Mr. Graham added, "You'll get my support maybe for both jobs,
who knows, " referring to the positions of deputy director and
director of the OMB.
Ms. Young built relationships with lawmakers of both parties
while serving as staff director of the House Appropriations
Committee. She played a lead role in helping to reach a compromise
in January 2019 that ended the longest government shutdown in U.S.
Ms. Tanden apologized for her past comments during her
confirmation hearings last month. Her supporters accused her
critics of a double standard, noting that Republicans regularly
ignored Mr. Trump's Twitter comments.
Before she became the head of the Center for American Progress,
Ms. Tanden was the senior adviser for health reform at the Health
and Human Services Department under former President Barack Obama.
In that role, she helped develop the Affordable Care Act, one of
Mr. Obama's signature achievements in office. Republicans have
repeatedly sought to overturn the law.
She was also an associate director for domestic policy and
senior policy adviser to the first lady in the Clinton
Eliza Collins contributed to this article.
Write to Alex Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 02, 2021 20:11 ET (01:11 GMT)
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