Office of Management and Budget director nominee Neera Tanden appreciated senators’ concerns about her tweets. She regretted calling Mitch McConnell “Voldemort,” and Susan Collins “the worst,” or tweeting that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz.” She regretted tweets insinuating that Russians hacked actual voting machines, to Donald Trump’s benefit, in the 2016 election. On the other side, she regretted fighting with profane Bernie Sanders–loving Marxist egg accounts about the prudence of pursuing single-payer health care legislation. She performed this apology tour before two Senate committees last week.
Despite the effort, she may be President Biden’s first Cabinet pick to go down. Joe Manchin, the most centrist member of Senate Democrats’ threadbare 50-seat majority, announced Friday afternoon that he opposed her nomination.
“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 Sanders to Senator McConnell and others,” Manchin said in a statement. “I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. For this reason, I cannot support her nomination.”
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that all other Democrats would support Tanden, Democrats would need one Republican to join them in order to confirm her. President Biden Friday evening said that he would not pull her nomination, and that “I think we’re going to find the votes to get her confirmed.”
Hmm. I’ve reached out to the usual suspects (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski) to see if there’s a swing vote for the taking but have yet to hear back. There are several reasons to doubt that any Republicans would be willing to offer Biden such a favor, though. They can roll the dice and hope for a new nominee who’s less progressive than Tanden. (Though a lot of leftists despise Tanden for her past belittlement of Sanders’ campaign, she was fully in line with the project of funding a robust agenda through deficit spending.) They sorely need a “win,” and they have the opportunity to get one by rejecting a solid C-list villain from the Fox News Cinematic Universe. Both Collins and Murkowski just voted to convict a Republican president on impeachment charges and could use a make-up call—or, at least, the absence of another apostasy. And, of course, Collins has been the target of Tanden’s posting, and Murkowski is Collins’ very good friend. There is no straightforward reason for any Republican to support her. They don’t need it, but they have bipartisan cover from Manchin to boot.
Manchin is going to do things like this from time to time. He will make little sacrifices to the gods of bipartisanship to maintain a semblance of centrist credibility. And if that kind of tinkering on the margin frees him to vote for a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, his Senate Democratic colleagues won’t complain too much.