Republicans vow to block Biden budget pick over her ‘disparaging’ comments about senators

Andrew Naughtie
Neera Tanden speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (REUTERS)
Neera Tanden speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (REUTERS)

One of Joe Biden’s reported appointees is already facing opposition from Republicans for her outspoken and often harsh comments about the right on social media.

Neera Tanden, who has been active in centrist Democratic Party politics for decades, is expected to be nominated by Mr Biden to run the Office of Management and Budget. A longtime loyalist of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ms Tanden is well-known for her engagement with adversaries on Twitter, where she is extremely prolific.

Ms Tanden has yet to tweet about the reports Mr Biden has chosen her — but some Republican operatives are already declaring that she should consider her nomination a non-starter.

“And there’s the sacrifice to the confirmation gods,” wrote Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Drew Brandewie, who currently serves as communications director for Texas senator John Cornyn, put it even more bluntly: “Neera Tanden, who has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators’ whose votes she’ll need, stands zero chance of being confirmed.”

Ms Tanden has lately hit out at Republican senators over their move to confirm Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett in an election year, despite their refusal to do the same in 2016. In a statement at the time, she wrote that the nomination had changed the Supreme Court into “an arm of the Republican agenda”, and that “Mitch McConnell has broken the Senate, he has broken the Supreme Court, and in conjunction with president Donald Trump, he has broken our democracy.”

In other tweets this year, she slammed the Republicans for failing to hold Mr Trump to account on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, creating “death panels” through “tragic incompetence" and “telling seniors they’re expendable”.

Ms Tanden is president of the Centre for American Progress, a centrist think tank associated with the mainstream of the Democratic Party since it was founded in 2003. Her nomination has been warmly received by much of her party, but many others in the Democratic firmament are less than enthusiastic.

While much is being made of Ms Tanden’s reception among Republicans — understandably given her confirmation depends principally on them — she has long been a thorn in the side of the Democratic left, especially during the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders.

Having served as an adviser to Ms Clinton’s 2016 campaign, she provoked the ire of Mr Sanders and his left-wing supporters during the 2020 primary with her comments about his version of progressive politics. So fractious did the debate become that Mr Sanders wrote to the board of the Centre for American Progress to complain about Ms Tanden specifically.

“Neera Tanden repeatedly calls for unity,” he wrote in April 2019, “while simultaneously maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas.”

And while Ms Tanden many times praised Mr Sanders on Twitter for his efforts to help unify the party during this year’s general election campaign, many of Mr Sanders’s progressive supporters are now venting their disgust at her name being put forward.

Briahna Joy Gray, who served as Mr Sanders’s national press secretary in his most recent campaign, unleashed her fury on Twitter, writing that “everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden” and sharing a screenshot of the nominee tweeting that she agrees with Donald Trump on Social Security.

Mr Sanders himself sits on the Senate’s Budget Committee, which will hold the hearings on Ms Tanden’s nomination. Republicans hold a thin majority in the chamber and on the committee, which is split 11-10 in their favour.

That means that even if both their Georgia senators survive the runoff election in January, only a few Republicans need vote in favour for her to be confirmed — assuming Mr Sanders and other left-wing Democrats also lend her their support.