Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate

’s choice of to head the White House budget office is setting the stage for the biggest confirmation battle of the president-elect’s first weeks in office.

Senate Republicans are vowing to oppose Tanden, a close ally of former Secretary of State who has often slammed GOP lawmakers on Twitter and referred to Senate Majority Leader (R-Ky.) as “Moscow Mitch.” 

She also hit McConnell on Twitter for not telling to wear a mask at his daily press conferences and has deleted tweets that appeared to be critical of Sen. (R-Maine), a key moderate, GOP aides pointed out.

Sen. (Texas), an adviser to the Senate Republican leadership, on Monday called Tanden Biden’s “worst nominee so far.”

“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 confirmation, Cornyn told reporters.

Cornyn noted she’s “deleted a lot of her previous tweets in the last couple of weeks which seems pretty juvenile, as if people won’t have access to it.”

“I’m a little surprised that he would do that and not even consult with any Republicans. Some of this can be avoided with a little bit of a heads up and consultation,” he added.

Republicans will control the Senate in 2021 if they win at least one of two runoff Senate races in Georgia on Jan. 5, which they are favored to do.

Republicans have been more receptive to Biden’s other Cabinet-level nominees, such as , his choice to serve as Treasury secretary.

Senate Republican Whip (S.D.) also raised a red flag on Tanden’s nomination and suggested Biden should have sought GOP input before tapping her.

“She’s been pretty partisan in some of her previous positions and in many cases with respect to Republican senators who have to vote on her potential nomination,” he said.

Thune added that Biden’s transition team should consult with McConnell before sending nominees to the floor to ensure they get floor votes: “I would hope that they would consult with us so that if they send somebody up here, it’s somebody that we can get confirmed.”

Sen. (R-S.C.), who will chair the Budget Committee next year if Republicans keep the majority, on Monday declined to commit to holding a hearing for Tanden.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said, adding she has an “uphill” path.

Drew Brandewie, a spokesman for Cornyn, on Sunday said that Tanden had “zero chance of being confirmed” to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) because of “an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican senators whose votes she’ll need.”

Sen. (R-Iowa) on Monday said, “I know among my colleagues there’s something that might be controversial,” when asked about Tanden.

Grassley predicted that Yellen would “get a favorable view” from Senate colleagues on her nomination to lead the Treasury Department.

Cornyn, who labeled Tanden as “radioactive,” also said he didn’t have any problem with Yellen. He said that except for instances of “conflicts of interest” or “lack of temperament and uber-partisanship,” Biden should be able to “get the people that he wants to serve him.”

If confirmed, Tanden, who is Indian American, would be the first woman of color to head the OMB.

The appointment of Tanden has left strategists on both sides of the aisle wondering about Biden’s rationale.

Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff, suggested that Tanden could draw partisan fire off of some of Biden’s other nominees, calling her Sunday “the sacrifice to the confirmation gods.”

A Senate Democratic aide predicted that “McConnell will have to get a scalp” to please the Republican base. 

Tanden’s allies are pointing out in her defense that Trump has also tweeted out critical comments about McConnell, Collins and other Senate Republicans and that Republican lawmakers many times over the past four years have declined to comment about controversial tweets by the president.

At the same time, Tanden has also received criticism from the left over her past support for curbing the growth of Social Security and Medicare and the barbs she directed at Sen. (I-Vt.), a leading progressive, when he ran for president.

David Sirota, a prominent liberal activist and adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, tweeted that Tanden’s nomination is a “giant blaring fluorescent sign” about where the Biden administration is heading and repeatedly cited Tanden’s calls for cuts to Medicare and Social Security in a February 2012 C-SPAN interview.

Tanden, who has served as president of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-allied think tank, since 2011, spoke about “ideas on proposals to reform the beneficiary structure of Social Security.”

She also argued “we should have savings on entitlements” such as Medicare and Social Security and noted cost-cutting proposals in then-President Obama’s budget.

Neil Sroka, communications director for Democracy for America, a grassroots-driven liberal political action committee, said, “Tanden frequently set herself up as an open adversary with the progressive base of the Democratic Party over the last five years.”

“She’s certainly not a nominee that I think many in the progressive base of the party are going to have any stomach to fight for,” he added. “She was a very odd choice for the Biden team insofar as she’s unique in her ability to have adversaries on both sides.” 

But Tanden also has backers across the political spectrum.

Bill Kristol, a prominent conservative activist and anti-Trump Republican, praised Tanden on Monday as a wise choice.

“Serious conservatives, responsible moderates, and hard-headed liberals should want a tough-minded OMB head. OMB is where Cabinet secretaries’ ill-considered projects go to die, where programs are evaluated, where trade-offs are made. Neera Tanden is the right person for the job,” he tweeted.

She also received support from several key liberal senators: Sens. (D-Mass.), (D-Ohio) and (D-N.J.).

Brown praised her Monday as “smart, experienced and qualified.”

“The American people decisively voted for change — Mitch McConnell shouldn’t block us from having a functioning government that gets to work for the people we serve,” he tweeted.

Warren on Monday retweeted Brown’s comments, stating, “I agree.”

Booker, who has known Tanden for more than 20 years, touted her as “brilliant and laser-focused on making our country a fairer place for all.”

Other prominent liberals coming to her defense are 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Rep. (D-Calif.), Obama confidant and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. 

Tanden, 50, has impressive credentials as a policy expert, serving as policy director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and serving as director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden transition. She also served as a senior adviser for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked on the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

On Monday, Tanden highlighted her first-hand experience of relying on government programs while growing up with limited family resources.

“After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by. Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure, and ensure families like mine can live with dignity. I am beyond honored,” she tweeted.

Jim Kessler, the executive vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, called Tanden “100 percent qualified to do that job.”

“She’s a policy wonk to her core. She’s run for the last 10 years one of the most prominent progressive think tanks in America, and she’s got a lot of political smarts,” he said, adding that she would bring diversity to the Cabinet as a woman of color and someone who “came from poverty.”

Jordain Carney contributed.

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