These policy wonks could replace Neera Tanden as Biden's OMB nominee if her confirmation goes south

  • Biden’s nominee for Office of Management and Budget Neera Tanden is in jeopardy for her past tweets.
  • Tanden criticized GOP lawmakers on Twitter. Now she might not have the votes to get confirmed.
  • A few names are already floating for her replacement even as the White House sticks by her.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Joe Biden’s current nomination for the Office of Management and Budget is on the rocks. 

Neera Tanden, a longtime Democratic strategist and president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, faces strong opposition from Republicans, and a key Democrat, for her history of tweets criticizing Republican members.

The OMB director primarily oversees the production of the president’s budget, which is expected in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s not over yet but I think you can’t leave this position too long, it hurts the government,” one former Obama administration official told Insider.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who’s enjoying key swing-vote status has said he won’t vote for her. Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a 50-50 Senate, losing a Democrat and not gaining a Republican ally will likely spell doom for Tanden’s nomination. So far, the moderate Republicans aren’t bailing Biden and Tanden out. Collins, as well as Mitt Romney of Utah, have said they won’t support her nomination.

While the White House is still backing Tanden and there is a chance her nomination could still go through, the names of a few Washington figures have begun floating around as potential replacements if her nomination goes south.

One possible replacement is Shalanda Young, Biden’s current nominee for the #2 position at the OMB. Young is a clerk and staff director for the powerful House Appropriations Committee, meaning she already has connections on Capitol Hill. She was also set to have her own confirmation process for the deputy director of the OMB, so Biden won’t have to start from scratch if he decides to promote her. The former Obama official said that because of her ties to the Hill, she would likely have an easier confirmation process.

Then there’s Gene Sperling, a “legend” in Democratic economic circles, according to the Obama official. Sperling served as the director of the White House’s National Economic Council under two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He also did a stint as counselor to Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. His qualifications make him an easy fit for OMB, but appointing him would come up short of Biden’s pledge for a diverse administration, and replacing Tanden with a white man could draw criticism for the White House.

Ann O’Leary, most recently the chief of staff to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, has also come up as a potential replacement, according to POLITICO. She began her political career working for then-first lady Hillary Clinton and later joined her Senate staff and her 2016 presidential campaign. However, Republicans could use her ties to Newsom, who is facing a recall election, against O’Leary.

Tanden has since her nomination deleted about 1,000 tweets bashing several Republican members of Congress. 

“Can people on here please focus their ire on McConnell and the GOP senators who are Up This Cycle who enable him: Cory Gardner, Collins, Ernst, Cornyn, Perdue, Tillis And many more,” she wrote in one since-deleted tweet. In another instance, she criticized Senator Susan Collins for her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of a decades-old sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in 2018.

Congressional Republicans spent years refusing to acknowledge combative, false, racist, and sexist tweets from President Donald Trump. But several Republican senators have argued that Tanden’s critical tweets make her unfit to run the government’s top budget office. 

Tanden apologized for her tweets during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on February 9.

“I deleted tweets because I regretted my tone,” she said. “But for those concerned about my rhetoric and my language, I’m sorry, and I’m sorry for any hurt that they’ve caused.

For now, Biden — whose team did not immediately respond to a request for comment —  isn’t abandoning her. 

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted: “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.”

Pskai later told reporters at a briefing that the White House has been “working the phones” with both Democratic and Republican offices regarding Tanden’s nomination.

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