Biden announces appointment of Indian-American to top economic post

Neera Tanden, president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress, speaks at a conference in 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Patrick T. Fallon

Neera Tanden, 50, the first Indian-American woman to head a national think tank, is Biden’s choice to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, his transition team announced Nov. 30, 2020.

The director of the OMB holds a Cabinet-level position. Since Biden chose Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, as his running mate, Tanden is the first Indian-American who will lead one of the most important agencies. The OMB oversees the implementation of the President’s vision across the Executive Branch. Specifically, OMB’s mission is to assist the President in meeting his policy, budget, management and regulatory objectives and to fulfill the agency’s statutory responsibilities, the agency website says.

Tanden is the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and the CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive think tank founded by President Bill Clinton’s former Chief of Staff  and later Counselor to President Obama, John Podesta.

In a letter to staff at the Center for American Progress, Tanden said, “It is an incredible honor to return to public service if confirmed, and particularly to OMB.” However, her nomination has been attracting controversy from the get-go with Sen. John Cornyn calling her ‘radioactive’. Tanden has used her social media through the years to lodge critiques of the Trump administration, and if the Senate cannot achieve a Democratic majority after the two elections in Georgia, she may face a tough going when her nomination is taken up next year.

“For many years when I was a kid, my mom depended on the very government programs OMB helps operate. To be able to guide and support those programs in this moment when so many in our country are relying on them is both a responsibility and a privilege, and I am honored by the trust President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris placed in me to work on behalf of the American people,” Tanden added.

“Tanden has been a leading architect and advocate of policies designed to support working families, foster broad-based economic growth, and curb inequality throughout her career,” the Biden-Harris team said in its press release.

“Her experience as a child relying on food stamps and Section 8 housing — a social safety net that offered her single mother the foundation she needed to land a good job and punch her family’s ticket to the middle class — instilled in her the true necessity of an economy that serves the dignity and humanity of all people,” the press release added.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate after President-elect Joe Biden takes over in January, Tanden would be the first woman of color and the first Indian American to lead the OMB.

She has also served in both the Obama and Clinton administrations, as well as on presidential campaigns, starting her political and policy career in the Clinton White House when she came in as an associate director for domestic policy and senior policy adviser to then First Lady Hillary Clinton.

She went on to become a major player in drafting President Obama’s Affordable Care Act as a senior advisor for health reform at the U.S. Department of health and Human Services.

Tanden was brought up in a single-parent family by her mother, Maya Tanden. She has often written about her experience and also spoken to this writer, about the time when her mother had to avail of social assistance.

A graduate of University of California, Los Angeles, with a degree from Yale Law School, Tanden is considered a firebrand, and in the past, has been outspoken even about her own party leaders.

Not only is she a smart political operative, but also a policy wonk having dealt with health care, domestic policy, and women’s issues.

Tanden was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign, where she managed all domestic policy proposals.

She also served as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, where she directed all policy work and oversaw the debate preparation process for then-Sen. Clinton (D-NY).

Before the 2008 presidential campaign, Tanden served as legislative director in Sen. Clinton’s office and deputy campaign manager and issues director for Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign.

During the Trump administration, Tanden has become a familiar face on major media.

According to her bio on the Center for American Progress website, Tanden has appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’ “Face the Nation,” PBS’ “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.

Most recently, she was named to Elle magazine’s “Women in Washington Power List” and Politico Magazine’s “Politico 50,” She has also been included in National Journal’s “Washington’s Most Influential Women,” Washingtonian magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Washington,” and Fortune magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Politics.”

Tanden received her bachelor of science from the University of California, Los Angeles and her law degree from Yale Law School. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two children.

(Updated Nov. 30, 2020)




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