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 picks.

Ms. Tanden asked that her nomination be withdrawn in a letter to Mr. Biden in which she acknowledged she had little chance of being confirmed.

"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 support.

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 bipartisan support.

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 nomination.

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. Tanden.

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 his opposition.

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 said.

During a confirmation hearing for her deputy director nomination on Tuesday, senators of both parties signaled they would support Ms. Young

"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. history.

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 administration.

Eliza Collins contributed to this article.

Write to Alex Leary at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 02, 2021 20:11 ET (01:11 GMT)

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