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White House pulls nomination of embattled budget chief pick Neera Tanden

"I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration," Biden said, signaling that he'll find a job for her that doesn't need Senate approval.
Image: Senate panel holds hearing on Biden budget nominee Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nominee to direct the Office of Management and Budget, testifies at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 10.Andrew Harnik / Pool via Reuters

WASHINGTON — The White House is withdrawing Neera Tanden's nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget, marking the first major personnel defeat for President Joe Biden.

Tanden ran into trouble after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., came out against her, citing overtly partisan statements that he said would have a toxic and detrimental impact on the working relationship between Congress and the influential budget office.

Biden had hoped a moderate Republican would give Tanden the support she needed, but that appeared unlikely. Tanden, who would have been the first nonwhite woman to run the office, was criticized because of her previous posts on Twitter targeting Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

"I have accepted Neera Tanden's request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget," Biden said in a statement. "I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work."

Manchin's objection meant Democrats, who control 50 seats in the evenly split chamber, would have needed at least one Republican vote to confirm her nomination. But there were no takers.

After Manchin, multiple Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio, came out against Tanden, expressing similar concerns about her ability to work across the aisle and all but closing her path.

The last hope rested on Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, but by Tuesday evening the White House was ready to concede.

Murkowski told reporters Tuesday night that she came into the confirmation process with an open mind and had a one-on-one with Tanden on Monday. But, she added, she never told the White House she was opposed to the nomination.

“No, I never did, they never asked," she said.

"Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities," Tanden said in a letter released Tuesday by the White House.

Two Democratic-controlled Senate committees canceled votes planned for Wednesday to advance the nomination. That made Tanden the latest victim of her Twitter feed, on which she had a history of leveling criticism of Republicans and progressive figures, which drew heavy scrutiny from senators.

Tanden apologized for her tweets last month, saying, "I deeply regret and apologize for my language." But that wasn't enough for some senators.

Tanden would have made history as the first nonwhite woman to lead OMB. Some progressives accused her critics of maintaining a double standard, citing some of President Donald Trump's nominees who were approved 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.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., clashed with Tanden, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, during his two presidential runs. He did not take a position on her nomination.

CORRECTION (March 3, 6:40 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when Neera Tanden apologized for social media posts that Republicans criticized as being divisive. She apologized Feb. 9, not earlier this month.