President Joe Biden has suffered a setback. He will now have to stop pursuing the nomination of Indian-American Neera Tanden for the coveted post of Director of the powerful Office of Management & Budget (OBM).
Ms Tanden wrote to the President on Tuesday, seeking to withdraw her nomination. It now transpires that her strongly worded tweets were central to the opposition to her candidacy from Senators on both sides of the aisle. In effect, Mr Biden will have to take, for now, a step back. In the event of winning the nomination, MsTanden would have become the first person of colour to lead the White House budget office, which decides funding priorities and ensures that agency rules and proposed legislation are in sync with the administration’s policies and budget. President Biden has not had his way at the threshold.
Ms Tanden, who was an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 and 2008 campaigns, was director for domestic policy in the White House during the Clinton years and had also advised Barack Obama in his 2008 campaign. Her experience of working with former Presidents is, therefore, considerable. Her nomination has been at risk ever since Joe Manchin, a moderate Democratic Senator from West Virginia, had opposed her candidacy last month, saying that 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.” In a sense, the opposition has come from within the Democratic party.
After the November election, Ms Tanden had reportedly deleted over 1,000 tweets and during her confirmation hearing she had repeatedly apologised for her comments. As it turned out, Mr Manchin and Republicans opposing Ms Tanden were criticised by Democrats for adopting double standards for supporting Trump nominees who had made social media attacks and had greater conflicts of interest.
Donald Trump himself is known to have made personal attacks, both verbal and written, against his political opponents. Former Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the budget committee that interrogated Ms Tanden, had also expressed concern over her suitability for the post during the confirmation hearing.
He had asked Ms Tanden if she would be influenced by corporations that had donated to the Center for American Progress and brought up attacks from Ms Tanden against him and his staff.
However, the White House persisted with Ms Tanden’s nomination despite the growing uncertainty, hoping to make up for opposition from the Democratic side of the aisle with support from moderate Republicans.
With centrist Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine having signalled their opposition to Ms Tanden, the uncertainty deepened this week following a meeting between Ms Tanden and the moderate Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska. The deepening uncertainty must have prompted President Biden and Ms Tanden to decide on Tuesday evening to give up her nomination. A crucial chapter is closed.