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Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney deal Neera Tanden's OMB nomination another blow

With Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., already opposing Tanden's nomination, Democrats will need at least one GOP vote to confirm her.
Image: Senate Budget Committee Examines OMB Director Nominee Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden, nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, testifies at her confirmation hearing this month. Anna Moneymaker / Pool via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget grew more precarious Monday after Republican Sens. Susan Collins, of Maine, and Mitt Romney, of Utah, announced their opposition.

Tanden needs one Republican to back her nomination after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, announced last week he will oppose her confirmation.

“Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency," Collins, who had been viewed as a possible Republican vote, said in a statement. "Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend."

Collins said that Tanden’s decision to “delete more than a thousand tweets in the days before her nomination was announced raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.”

“Should Congress need to review documents or actions taken by OMB, we must have confidence that the director will be forthcoming,” she said. “The OMB needs steady, experienced, responsive leadership. I will vote against confirming Ms. Tanden.”

A spokesperson for Romney said the Utah senator could not look past her trolling Twitter history.

“Sen. Romney has been critical of extreme rhetoric from prior nominees, and this is consistent with that position. And he believes it’s hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets,” the spokesperson said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted in between the statements from Collins and Romney that, "Neera Tanden = accomplished policy expert, would be 1st Asian American woman to lead OMB, has lived experience having benefitted from a number of federal programs as a kid, looking ahead to the committee votes this week and continuing to work toward her confirmation."

Collins and Romney's announcements come after Manchin said Friday that he opposed after he reviewed her previous tweets criticizing officials across the political spectrum, adding he can’t support her nomination because "her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact” on the relationship between Congress and OMB.

With Manchin’s opposition, Democrats will need at least one GOP vote to confirm her on the Senate floor. Collins’ and Romney's rejections of the nomination doesn’t bode well for Tanden, as the senators are among the more moderate members of the party who sometimes join Democrats in key votes.

President Joe Biden said Friday in response to Manchin’s announcement that he didn’t plan to withdraw Tanden’s nomination.

A source familiar with her thinking suggested Tanden, who testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Feb. 9 and the Senate Budget Committee on Feb. 10, is waiting until possible committee votes on Wednesday to determine her next steps.

A Senate aide close to the White House said even if Tanden isn't confirmed, the nomination fight will likely help her reputation with liberals, increase her profile, and help her organization raise money.

The aide said Manchin's opposition to Tanden isn't being viewed in the Senate as a power play or trade-off for support in other areas — such as the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill. Instead, Manchin strongly disagrees with Tanden on budget and deficit issues.

Former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted over the weekend that he hopes Tanden is confirmed, calling her "smart, experienced and qualified" to lead OMB.

"We should always remember that there will be a Republican president in the future who will want to have his/her nominees confirmed," he said.

Frank Thorp V, Shannon Pettypiece and Geoff Bennett contributed.