WASHINGTON: Neera Tanden, US President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, faces what will likely be two contentious confirmation hearings this week, where Senate Republicans are expected to grill her about attacks on members of their party on social media.
Tanden, 50, will appear at confirmation hearings on Tuesday before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and on Wednesday before the Budget Committee.
When Biden picked Tanden, chief executive of the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank, in November, Republicans pointed to her past strong comments on Twitter, such as referring to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch,” implying that he was working for Russia, or calling Republican Senator Susan Collins “criminally ignorant.”
However, now that Democrats control the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie, Tanden can get the 51 votes needed to become OMB director even if she wins no Republican support in the 100-member chamber.
In prepared testimony, Tanden acknowledged that part of her role at the think tank was to be “an impassioned advocate,” but she knew that directing the OMB would be different. “I understand, though, that the role of OMB Director calls for bipartisan action, as well as nonpartisan adherence to fact and evidence,” her statement said.
The Senate is also scheduled on Tuesday to begin the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, who is accused of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Before her stint at the Center for American Progress, Tanden served in the administration of former Democratic President Bill Clinton. She also helped create former Democratic President Barack Obama‘s “Affordable Care Act” health insurance plan, which Republicans have tried repeatedly to repeal.
She would be the first woman of color to serve as director of the OMB, which acts as the gatekeeper for the $4 trillion federal budget.
Tanden has been viewed as Biden’s most controversial nominee, attacked not just by Republicans but also criticized by some of the most left-leaning Democrats for being insufficiently progressive.
Democrats scoffed at Republican concern about Tanden’s past tweets – many of which have been deleted. They called such concern hypocritical in light of Republican support for former President Donald Trump, who was known for blasting not just Democrats but members of his own party – particularly women – as “nasty” or criminals who should be locked up.
Democrats praised Tanden as experienced and qualified. “She understands the everyday needs of working and middle class families and has devoted her career in public service and public policy to building a better economy that works for all Americans,” Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement after meeting with her.
Tanden also has been criticized from the left over her support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rather than Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic presidential race.
Sanders has not said publicly whether he will support Tanden’s nomination. But the senator, who is now chairman of the Budget Committee, is unlikely to have scheduled her confirmation hearing if he were strongly opposed to her selection.
A Sanders spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.