A file photo of Neera Tanden at The Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. (AFP)
A file photo of Neera Tanden at The Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. (AFP)

Biden administration withdraws Neera Tanden’s nomination to cabinet position

The White House on Tuesday pulled the Indian-American’s nomination to a cabinet position to head the office of management and budget (OMB) after facing opposition from Republicans and a Democrat for her controversial tweets
By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Nadim Siraj
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 12:06 PM IST

The White House on Tuesday withdrew Indian-American Neera Tanden’s nomination to a cabinet position to head the office of management and budget (OMB) after she faced opposition from Republicans as well as a Democrat for her controversial tweets.

She will have a role in the Biden administration still, but it was not immediately clear how.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for director of the office of management and budget,” US President Joe Biden said. “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.”

Biden offered no indication of what that role will be, but it will most certainly be a position not requiring confirmation by the Senate.

“I am writing to you to withdraw my nomination,” Tanden wrote to the president as 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’s nomination, as the first Indian-American and woman of colour picked to head the OMB, had appeared to be in trouble almost from the time it was announced.

Critics have called Tanden divisive citing her tweets in which she had targeted specially, and not only, Republicans over the past four years.

“Very disappointed. We worked our hearts out and did everything we could to help Neera,” Shekar Narasimhan, a Democratic donor who also leads an initiative to promote Asian-descent Democratic politicians, said about Tanden pulling her nomination. “This would not have happened if Democrats stuck together and realised how critical the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community is to their electoral prospects in the future.”

Tanden’s nomination began unravelling after Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator, announced his opposition to it. In an evenly divided 100-member Senate, Tanden would have made it home with the support of all 50 Democrats and then vice-president Kamala Harris’s tie-breaker vote.

But Manchin’s opposition to her nomination left her at the mercy of the Republicans. There were hopes that moderate Republicans, who have voted against the party line, such as Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, would come to her rescue. None of them did.

“Congress has to be able to trust the OMB director to make countless decisions in an impartial manner, carrying out the letter of the law and congressional intent,” Collins had said while announcing her decision. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency. Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.”

Collins was among the Republicans who Tanden had once targeted in her tweets, calling her “the worst”.

Some of Tanden’s defenders, however, alleged she was a victim of sexism. “I feel like there’s a little bit of sexism going on here,” William Kristol, a conservative political commentator, told The Washington Post. “It just seems like these tweets sound harsher to these old guys because they’re coming from a woman.”

These same Republicans had looked the other way as one of their own, former president Donald Trump, had demeaned people in his social media posts.

Other defenders of Tanden had alleged an undercurrent of racism in opposition to her nomination. The Washington Post had reported, citing activists, “Many of the president’s Black, Latino, Asian and Native American nominees are encountering more political turbulence than their White counterparts, further drawing out the process of staffing the federal government.”

Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, tweeted as Tanden’s chances of being confirmed dimmed late February, “I represent one of the largest Indian-American districts in US. How do I look at what’s happening to @neeratanden and tell little girls of South Asian descent that they’ll have the same opportunities in life as white men? The answer: I can’t. And that’s a shame.”

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