Budget nominee Tanden withdraws nomination amid opposition

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Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), appears beofre a Senate Committee on the Budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden's pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets.

Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden's nominees. Thirteen of the 23 Cabinet nominees requiring Senate approval have been confirmed, most with strong bipartisan support.

“Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities,” Tanden wrote in a letter to Biden. The president, in a statement, said he has “utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel” and pledged to find her another role in his administration.

Tanden’s viability was in doubt after Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and a number of moderate Republicans came out against her last month, all citing her tweets attacking members of both parties prior to her nomination.

Manchin, a key moderate swing vote in the Senate, said last month in a statement announcing his opposition 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.” Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, meanwhile, cited Biden’s own standard of conduct in opposing Tanden, declaring in a statement that “her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.”

Tanden needed just 51 votes in an evenly-divided Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker. But without Manchin’s support, the White House was left scrambling to find a Republican to support her.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was seen as the last Republican holdout open to supporting Tanden, said Tuesday night that she never told the White House she was a no vote on Tanden, and that the administration never asked. But her support was believed to be key to Tanden's nomination after a number of other centrist Republicans came out against her, and Murkowski met with the nominee this week.

Murkowski told reporters she had asked Tanden, as she does all the nominees, to understand the challenges the Biden administration’s policies are having on Alaska, where the economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas drilling and related activities.