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Two senators join Manchin in opposing Biden budget pick Neera Tanden, putting nomination in peril

Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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WASHINGTON – Two moderate Republican senators said Monday they would oppose Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nominee for the White House Office of Management and Budget, further imperiling her confirmation.

A spokesperson for Sen. Mitt Romney said Monday morning the Utah Republican would oppose Tanden's nomination, citing his criticism of "extreme rhetoric from prior nominees."

“Senator Romney has been critical of extreme rhetoric from prior nominees, and this is consistent with that position. He believes it’s hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets,” Romney spokesperson Arielle Mueller said.

Romney's opposition comes after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Monday she too would oppose Tanden, saying Tanden had "neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency."

Romney sits on both the Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees, both of which are set to vote to advance Tanden's nomination to the full Senate floor this week.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, has been noncommittal on her nomination, grilling Tanden, the former head of the liberal Center for American Progress, on her past statements and her former organization's corporate donations. In a Friday evening CNN interview Sanders dodged a question on supporting her confirmation, saying he would talk to Tanden "early next week."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said Friday he would oppose Tanden, meaning that at least one Republican must vote for Tanden in order for her to win confirmation. Biden said last week they had the votes to confirm her, but it is unclear which Republicans might support Tanden.

Asked Monday if Democrats had the votes to confirm Tanden, second-ranking Senate Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters he did not know.

"Clearly, Senator Manchin’s public statement makes this a challenge. We need to find support on the Republican side of the aisle to make up for that vote," he said.

A source familiar with the confirmation said they would not assume Biden's team would pull the nomination, saying no senator could be ruled out and that it could be a surprise who might come out in support of Tanden.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the White House still saw a pathway to Tanden's confirmation, though she did not outline what coalition of senators may now vote to confirm Tanden.

"We have been working the phones, in touch with Democrats and Republicans and their offices throughout the weekend,” Psaki said, also stating the White House had spoken with 35 senators thus far.

While the press secretary argued that Tanden would bring “decades of policy experience” to the position, she noted the White House takes “nothing for granted” in her case or the nomination processes for the remainder of Biden’s appointments.

Tanden had come under fire during the confirmation process for her past tweets and statements criticizing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

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For instance, Tanden had called Collins "the worst," "a fake defender of Roe v. Wade" and accused her of "flat out deception" for her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

All of Biden's Cabinet or Cabinet-level nominees so far have been confirmed by the Senate with large margins with the exception of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who won confirmation by a 56-43 vote. Six Republican senators voted for Mayorkas: Dan Sullivan of Alaska; Mitt Romney of Utah; Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia; Rob Portman of Ohio; Susan Collins of Maine; and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Contributing: Matthew Brown

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mitt Romney, Susan Collins to oppose Biden budget nominee Neera Tanden