The withdrawal marks the first Cabinet defeat for Biden, whose other nominees have so far all cleared 50 votes in the Senate. But it is a potentially costly one. The White House is expected to introduce a budget in a matter of weeks or months and will now have to do so — at least for the foreseeable future — without a budget chief.
Tanden was known for her policy chops in addition to her sharp elbows. And though she had a champion in White House chief of staff Ron Klain, other Democrats privately grumbled that she was always destined for a difficult confirmation process. The first notable sign of that came when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he would oppose her nomination for the post. Moderate Republicans followed suit, citing her often-personal Twitter attacks on them and their party.
Some Democratic lawmakers, however, also spoke out against a perceived “double standard” after years of Republicans’ repeatedly refusing to comment on then-President Donald Trump’s tweets. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) reiterated that criticism in an MSNBC interview on Tuesday evening, while adding that he hoped Biden would find Tanden a role in the administration.
“I hope that President Biden finds another spot for Neera somewhere in the administration,” he said. “She’s a tremendous asset that can be very helpful for the administration and for government as a whole. But we will address and call out the double standard at every turn.”
The lone holdout was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who met with Tanden on Monday but had not said which way she was planning to vote. She didn’t need to, after all. Before she made any such proclamation, the White House had announced Tanden’s withdrawal.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) wrote on Twitter in response to the announcement: “The Tanden nomination failed just as it should have. She has a history of being a poor manager and of supporting toxic far-left policies which would be detrimental to the nation if implemented. She was the wrong choice for this position.”
Tanden is poised to get a job inside the administration that will not require Senate confirmation. What job that is was not made clear in Biden’s statement.
Also unclear is who will replace her as a potential OMB chief. A few potential nominees have been floated for the post, including Ann O’Leary, a former top Hillary Clinton aide, and Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Hill Democrats, however, have been pushing for Shalanda Young, who hours before Tanden’s withdrawal garnered effusive praise from both Democrats and Republicans during her first confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee as Biden’s nominee to the No. 2 spot at OMB.
Young has extensive knowledge of federal spending after 14 years on the House Appropriations Committee, most recently serving as clerk and staff director. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations panel, had already said he would support Young if Tanden’s nomination fell apart. Other Republicans agreed on Tuesday.
“You’ll get my support, maybe for both jobs,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Young during her confirmation hearing. “Everybody who deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say. You might talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it.”
Barring an unexpected development, Tanden’s withdrawal will mean that Biden’s Cabinet will include just one Asian-American Pacific Islander. The chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Cali.), called that development a “tragedy.”
“We expect the highest levels of professionalism and civility from our leaders in government, which is precisely what Neera displayed in taking responsibility for her past comments and committing to a change in tone,” Chu said. “I’m disappointed that such a qualified candidate was subject to such a negative double standard.”
Caitlin Emma and Benjamin Din contributed to this report.