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Manchin responds to sexism charges after opposing Neera Tanden's confirmation

Biden's pick to run the budget office now needs at least one Republican vote to be confirmed. So far, there are no takers.
Image: Neera Tanden appears before a Senate Committee on the Budget hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 10, 2021.
Neera Tanden appears before a Senate Committee on the Budget hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 10, 2021.Anna Moneymaker / The New York Times via AP file

WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator responded Tuesday to accusations of sexism from progressives after opposing Neera Tanden to be President Joe Biden's budget director, a decision that threw her nomination into uncertainty.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia denied that sexism played a role in his opposition, calling his decision "not personal at all."

The nomination of Tanden, who would be the first nonwhite woman to lead the Office of Management and Budget, hung by a thread in the afternoon as Republican leaders sought to unify and block it.

Manchin's opposition means that Tanden needs one Republican to cross the aisle in order to be confirmed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told his conference during a Tuesday lunch meeting that he wants them to stick together and oppose Tanden, per two Republican sources familiar with his remarks.

Asked immediately after the lunch whether he expected his conference to coalesce against Tanden, McConnell told NBC News: "I hope so. We'll see."

The chamber has confirmed numerous nominees of President Joe Biden and hasn't rejected any yet.

Like Manchin, many GOP senators cite past tweets by Tanden criticizing politicians across the spectrum. In his statement Friday, Manchin said that Tanden's "overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship" between Congress and the influential White House budget office.

Since then, key Republicans including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio have come out against Tanden, leveling similar concerns.

But some progressive lawmakers and activists saw a double standard between Tanden and some of President Donald Trump's nominees who were confirmed by the Senate — including frequent Twitter sniper Richard Grenell for Ambassador to Germany, and Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court after his at-times intemperate testimony in response to allegations of attempted sexual assault.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., questioned whether there was a potential gender or race-based motive to the opposition to nominees like Tanden and Interior nominee Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American to run the department.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who may be the last Republican senator in play, told reporters Tuesday that she still has time to make a decision on a full Senate vote as Tanden faces two committee confirmation votes Wednesday.

Murkowski said she has spoken to the White House about Tanden, but it wasn't clear when or with whom specifically, nor did she say how the conversation went.

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The White House stood by Tanden's nomination on Tuesday, saying the administration is still working to find the needed votes.

At his weekly news conference today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Republicans as hypocritical for basing their opposition to Tanden on mean tweets.

"I'm not gonna get into specifics and names but we're continuing to look [for votes]," Schumer said. "I think Neera Tanden would be an outstanding OMB nominee. And for Republicans who look the other way with the nastiest of tweets by their president their leader for now to say Neera Tanden shouldn't get in because of her tweets is a little bit of a contradiction."