Neera Tanden, President Biden's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, arrives for a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Feb. 10.

Neera Tanden, President Biden's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, arrives for a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Feb. 10. Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Senate Committees Postpone Votes on Biden’s OMB Nominee

Alternatives to Neera Tanden are being floated, as her confirmation path gets more difficult. 

Two Senate committees on Wednesday postponed their votes on Neera Tanden’s nomination to be Office of Management and Budget director as opposition grew. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Budget committees both have to favorably report the nomination of Tanden, president and CEO of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, before the full Senate can take it up. 

Since last Friday, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have said they will oppose her nomination, thus making the confirmation path trickier. They condemned her partisan history and mean tweets about lawmakers that she deleted before getting nominated. Of this group, Romney is on both committees that were scheduled to vote Wednesday and Portman is on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

Since Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate (50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking tie votes), they won’t be able to confirm Tanden on their own. 

“We are postponing the business meeting because members need more time to consider the nominee,” a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee aide told Government Executive. “The president deserves to have a team in place that he wants, and we’re going to work with our members to figure out the best path forward.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called Tanden late on Tuesday night to tell her about the postponement for his committee, according to The Wall Street Journal. Tanden has sparred with Sanders and the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

The White House has reiterated its support for Tanden despite the opposition.

“There’s one candidate to lead the department and that’s Neera Tanden,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing on Tuesday afternoon, when asked if there is a “plan B” if Tanden’s nomination doesn’t work out. 

Tanden “has important perspective and values, understanding firsthand the powerful difference policy can make in the lives of those going through hard times,” Psaki tweeted on Wednesday morning, shortly after Axios broke the news about the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs vote. “She has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to labor unions, and has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden's Cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB.”

The situation has raised questions over whether or not Tanden is dealing with a double standard for her past tweets.

“Tanden is facing a level of scrutiny that her white male peers do not face,” said Bridget Todd, communications director at the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, in a statement on Tuesday. “Not only does this set a different set of rules for women of color in politics, it establishes that this line of attack is fair game to block confirmations to Biden’s Cabinet, many of whom happen to be women of color.”

For example, Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany under the Trump administration, had a “history of highly partisan inflammatory tweets [that] is well documented. Yet Manchin had no issues voting to confirm Grenell’s nomination,” she said.

House Democratic leaders are “quietly” campaigning for Shalanda Young, nominee for OMB deputy director, to be the alternative for director, according to an Axios report on Tuesday. She is a long-time congressional aide and would be the first Black female head of the agency, if confirmed. Meanwhile, progressive groups are campaigning for Gene Sperling, who led the National Economic Council twice, to be the new nominee, said the report. 

Other names being floated by “White House allies” are: Ann O’Leary, former chief of staff to California Gov. Gavin Newsom; Martha Coven, former OMB official under President Obama; and Sarah Bianchi, a long-time policy aide to Biden, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. 

Rob Fairweather, an OMB career staffer, is serving as acting director of OMB until a nominee is confirmed.