President Joe Biden’s Indian-American nominee for a cabinet post is at risk of not getting the Senate’s approval after a Democratic Senator announced he would not vote for her.
Joe Manchin said on Friday that he will oppose Neera Tanden’s nomination to be the director of the powerful Office of Management and Budget citing her history of attacking leaders of both Democratic and Republican parties.
“Her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” he said.
A loyalist of former Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, she had alienated both Republicans and Democrats with her caustic tweets which have now come back to haunt her.
Appointments of members of the cabinet and senior officials have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Despite the red flags, Biden had nominated her in expecting that she would sail through the chamber with the vote of all the 50 Democrats and the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris as the Senate president. But that calculation has been upended by fellow-Democrat Manchin.
It seems unlikely that any Republican would support her nomination in the evenly divided 100-member Senate.
However, Biden stood firmly by Tanden saying a firm “No”, when reporters asked him if he would withdraw her nomination.
His Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Tanden is an accomplished policy expert who would be an excellent Budget Director and we look forward to the committee votes next week and to continuing to work toward her confirmation through engagement with both parties.”
Defeat of Tanden’s nomination would mark the first defeat for Biden in the Senate, which has so far approved seven appointees with the support of many Republicans. They include the secretaries of state, defence, treasury and homeland security.
It would also point to the rough road ahead for Biden in keeping all the 50 Democrats in his fold to get the budget and some other legislation through.
Tanden has apologised for her tweets telling the Senate Homeland Security Committee last week, “I deeply regret and apologise for my language and some of my past language.”
At that committee’s hearing Republican Senator Rob Portman brought up some of her tweets.
“You wrote that Susan Collins is the worst, that Tom Cotton is a fraud, that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz. You called leader McConnell: Moscow Mitch and Voldemort, and on and on,” he said.
She faced an embarrassing situation when she appeared before the Senate Budget Committee, which is chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent aligned with the Democrats who had run for that party’s presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
As an adviser to the Clinton campaign, Tanden had made personal attacks on Sanders.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham brought up a tweet by her accusing Bernie of being helped by Russia a” a charge that that had also been made against former President Donald Trump.
She admitted, “I must have meant them, but I really regret them.”
Sanders has not indicated how he would vote, but during the hearing the leftist leader grilled her about the donations of 33 million the Centre for American Progress that she headed had received from big business.
She has admitted to deleting more than 1,000 tweets in November 2020 around the time Biden had named her to be OMB director.
If her nomination were to be approved by the Senate, she would be the second Indian-American to serve on the US cabinet.
The first was Nikki Haley, who was given a cabinet rank by Trump when she was the US permanent representative to the United Nations.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)