New Delhi: Indian-American Neera Tanden, who has been nominated by US President Joe Biden as his budget chief, faces a tough confirmation process due to her history of “mean tweets”.
Tanden’s nomination as the first Indian-American and the first woman of colour to serve as director of the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is in jeopardy with four senators announcing their decision to vote against her.
A former aide of Hillary Clinton, Tanden currently runs the Washington DC-based think tank Center for American Progress. She could be the first high-profile Biden nominee to be rejected by the Senate, especially for a key economic post responsible for managing the $4 trillion federal budget.
Four senators — Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — have announced that they will vote against her nomination, citing her past social media behaviour. What has also drawn suspicion was her decision to delete more than a thousand tweets after Biden won the US election last year.
Tanden’s candidature isn’t the only one in choppy waters. The confirmation of another Indian-American, Vivek Murthy, who has been nominated as the next surgeon general, is also on the rocks after it emerged that he allegedly earned over $2 million by advising corporations on Covid-19 safety measures.
According to a report in The Washington Post, he consulted companies like Carnival Corporation on its cruise lines and Airbnb. He reportedly earned nearly $300,000 from cosmetics giant Estée Lauder on mental health practices during the pandemic and over $600,000 from Netflix by advising whether it was safe for TV and movie productions to resume operations.
ThePrint tells you more about why Tanden’s nomination is in jeopardy.
Tanden’s ‘mean tweets’ and ‘vicious attacks’
Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat and the first to announce his vote against Tanden last Friday, said he feared her “partisan” remarks would compromise the working relationship between Congress and the OMB.
“I have carefully reviewed Neera Tanden’s public statements and tweets that were personally directed towards my colleagues on both sides of the aisle from Senator (Bernie) Sanders to Senator (Mitch) McConnell and others,” Manchin said.
Tanden has had past feuds with supporters of Sanders — first during the 2016 presidential primary and then during Sanders’ 2020 presidential run.
During her confirmation hearing earlier this month, Sanders had grilled Tanden on her “vicious attacks”, to which she apologised and expressed regret over the statements she made on social media.
At another confirmation hearing, Republican Rob Portman also grilled Tanden on calling fellow Senator Susan Collins “the worst”, Republican Senator Tom Cotton a fraud, McConnell the “Moscow Mitch” and “Voldemort”, and for saying that vampires have more heart than Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Romney said the Senator believes it is “hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets”.
Collins, meanwhile, questioned Tanden’s “commitment to transparency”, noting that she had deleted several tweets before her nomination.
In 2018, Tanden slammed Collins during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by American academic Christine Blasey Ford.
In another deleted tweet from December 2017, Tanden had hit out at the Republican Party for its support to Senate candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama special election. She wrote, “The Republican party is gleefully supporting an alleged child molester. And everyone who gives money to the RNC is doing the same.”
Trump critic, Hillary aide who also worked on Bill Clinton, Obama campaigns
The 50-year-old was born in Bedford, Massachusetts, to immigrant parents from India. A vocal critic of former US president Donald Trump, Tanden landed in hot water in 2016 when a WikiLeaks cache brought out emails between her and Jim Podesta, who then served as the chair of Hillary’s presidential campaign.
Apart from Hillary, Tanden served on the presidential campaigns of several Democratic candidates like Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008. She was also a healthcare adviser in the Obama administration, helping frame provisions of the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as ‘Obamacare’.
Tanden has been viewed as someone who is “too progressive but has also had squabbles with some within the Democratic Party”, according to a report in Bloomberg last November.
With four senators opposing Tanden’s nomination, some reports have stated that Shalanda Young, who was nominated as deputy director of the OMB last month, is one of the contenders for the top post now.