Senate Republicans are sharpening their knives for Neera Tanden, President-elect Joe Biden’s announced pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, in what is quickly shaping up to be the first congressional fight of his presidency.
Tanden, 50, previously served as an adviser to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as President Barack Obama. She would be the first woman of color and the first South Asian woman to lead OMB, a key White House office that supervises federal agencies and administers the federal budget.
But it is Tanden’s active Twitter account and role as president of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank with deep ties to the Democratic establishment, that is giving Republicans pause.
On Twitter, Tanden hasn’t shied from expressing her opinions about GOP “enablers” of President Donald Trump and his agenda, sometimes taking an adversarial approach to elected officials and journalists alike. In 2018, she issued a sharply worded statement slamming Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) over her support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling her a “fake defender of Roe v. Wade.” Tanden appeared to have deleted some tweets in recent days that referenced Collins and other senators whom she may need to win confirmation to her post.
Republicans on Monday expressed opposition to her confirmation even before she has been formally nominated by Biden, who has yet to take office.
“I think in light of her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, that it creates certainly a problematic path” to her confirmation, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding that Tanden “strikes me as maybe [Biden’s] worst nominee so far.”
“She’s going to be radioactive,” he added.
I’ve heard that she’s a very prolific user of Twitter.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tanden had been “pretty partisan” and “kind of out of the mainstream.” He noted with a laugh that the targets of her attacks were in some cases Republican senators who would have to vote on her potential nomination.
Asked about her opinion on Biden’s pick for budget chief and her prospects for confirmation, Collins said she wasn’t familiar with her background and declined to comment. But she, too, indicated Tanden’s Twitter account might pose an issue.
“I’ve heard that she’s a very prolific user of Twitter,” the Maine Republican told reporters on Monday.
The treatment Republicans are giving to the online presence of one of Biden’s administration picks stands in stark contrast to how they approached Trump over the last four years. Most GOP senators repeatedly dodged questions about the president’s incendiary tweets attacking members of both parties and his hurling of insults at just about everyone who stood in his way, pretending they “didn’t see” them when asked about them by reporters ― even when those reporters offered to show them the tweets in print.
Moreover, Senate Republicans have confirmed a number of partisan bomb-throwers to Trump’s administration, including former House Freedom Caucus chair Mick Mulvaney as Trump’s budget chief, and Ric Grenell, who was by all accounts a conservative Twitter troll who went on to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence.
The goalposts under an incoming Democratic administration are quickly shifting, and the fight over Tanden’s nomination is only the opening play. Some Republicans have also expressed concern with other Biden picks over potential ethics issues regarding ties to consulting firms and the defense industry ― areas where members of Trump’s Cabinet were largely given a pass.
It’s possible that Senate Republicans would deny Tanden’s nomination a hearing outright. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is expected to chair the Senate Budget Committee if Republicans maintain control of the chamber next year, declined to commit to hearings for her on Monday, saying only that he’ll “cross that bridge when we get there.”
A spokesperson for Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats, meanwhile, dismissed GOP criticism of Tanden as bad-faith pearl-clutching after years of looking the other way when it came to Trump’s Twitter account.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Tanden “so eminently qualified that some on the Republican side — grasping at straws — have taken issue with comments made on Twitter criticizing the policy positions of Republicans in Congress.”
“Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding,” Schumer added. “If Republicans are concerned about criticism on Twitter, their complaints are better directed at President Trump, who has made a hobby out of denigrating Republican senators on Twitter.”
Prominent progressive lawmakers also voiced support for Tanden, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) ― an important coup given her clashes with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his allies during both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.
Tanden’s path to confirmation may ultimately depend on the Georgia Senate election runoffs in early January. Democrats are hoping for a miracle: Winning both races in what has long been regarded a red state, at least before Biden won it in the Nov. 3 presidential election, would give them 50 votes in the upper chamber. Kamala Harris, the incoming vice president, could cast the tiebreaker in that scenario and help get Biden’s Cabinet confirmed if no Democrats defect.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter