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Neera Tanden's nomination to head White House budget office in peril as Collins, Romney say they will vote against her

Alexander Nazaryan
·National Correspondent
·3 min read
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WASHINGTON — The nomination of Neera Tanden to head the powerful Office of Management and Budget appears increasingly imperiled, with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney and Utah, both Republicans, announcing on Monday morning that they would vote against the nominee.

The growing opposition has less to do with Tanden’s liberal outlook than her avid Twitter use. And it comes after a four-year debate about whether then-President Donald Trump’s tweets were to be treated as a distraction, a provocation or his way of announcing policy.

Republican US Senator Susan Collins arrives at the US Capitol for the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump, on February 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Susan Collins at the Capitol in early February. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, had earlier indicated that he too would vote against Tanden. Manchin cited Tanden’s tweets as a major reason to vote against her.

Those developments leave little wiggle room in an evenly divided Senate and could make Tanden — who heads the liberal Center for American Progress and is a longtime Clinton ally — the first failed Biden Cabinet nomination.

At issue is Tanden’s storied legacy of incendiary tweets, which have frequently criticized and mocked Trump, congressional Republicans and progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. In doing so, her tweets have complicated the new administration’s stated goal of returning Washington to pre-Trumpian norms of civility.

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

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, but earlier in the day, before Romney’s opposition was made known, press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted support for the nominee. Psaki called Tanden an “accomplished policy expert” and noted that she would be the first woman of Asian descent to head the influential budget office. Psaki added that the White House would continue “to work toward her confirmation.”

In a chamber divided equally between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tiebreaking votes, that work has become increasingly difficult. Tanden needs the support of moderate Republicans such as Rob Portman of Ohio or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, but neither has come out in favor of the nominee.

Portman, who headed the budget office during President George W. Bush’s administration, has criticized Tanden for promoting “incivility and division” with her tweets. That criticism came during a hearing at which Tanden apologized for those messages.

Neera Tanden, director of the Office and Management and Budget (OMB) nominee for U.S. President Joe Biden, appears before a Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Neera Tanden at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on Feb. 10. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Some of Tanden’s supporters noted that Republicans spent four years ignoring Trump’s divisive, crude and sometimes outright incomprehensible tweets, making their scrutiny of Tanden’s messages somewhat suspect.

Tanden did not reply to a request for comment from Yahoo News.

Republicans know they must display a willingness to work with the Biden administration, lest they be branded the party of obstruction during a time of unprecedented crisis. At the same time, they need to show the GOP base they are willing to oppose the president, whom conservative outlets like Fox News and Newsmax have hyperbolically depicted as taking the U.S. down the road to socialism.

Narrow congressional majorities and the selection of partisan, ideological nominees have made Cabinet nominations more fraught than they once were. According to a U.S. Senate database, the last president not to have a Cabinet nominee rejected or withdrawn was Ronald Reagan, who became president 40 years ago.

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