Neera Tanden committee vote delayed as alternatives to lead White House budget office surface

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Neera Tanden, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, speaks last week in Wilmington, Del. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman

WASHINGTON — Two Senate committees on Wednesday delayed votes on President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the budget office, as the White House struggles to find the votes to secure her passage through the Senate.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senate Budget Committee both postponed votes scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, on Neera Tanden, tapped by Biden to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Tanden’s nomination has appeared increasingly in jeopardy over the last week as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and a number of moderate Republican Senators announced they would not vote for her, likely dooming her selection in a narrowly divided U.S. Senate.

The White House budget office is at a pivotal juncture, tasked with writing Biden’s budget and overseeing the disbursal of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to rescue the ailing U.S. economy, once Congress passes Biden’s stimulus bill.

The White House continued to defend Tanden’s candidacy on Wednesday despite the obstacles. Manchin and Republican lawmakers have argued Tanden’s sometimes personal tweets about lawmakers, but the administration has defended Tanden as a policy expert well suited to lead the budget office.

“Neera Tanden is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Twitter Wednesday morning. “She has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to labor unions, and has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden’s cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB.”

Still, chatter has grown among White House allies about possibly finding a replacement to lead OMB, given its crucial role in writing the president’s budget and implementing the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which Congress is still considering.

So far, Shalanda Young, a former appropriations committee staffer already chosen by Biden as deputy director of OMB, has emerged as one leading candidate for the position and is likely the frontrunner, according to two people granted anonymity to share discussions among senior Democrats. Numerous congressional aides of both parties, granted anonymity to describe internal dynamics, predicted Young would be quickly approved if chosen.

Other names discussed in recent days by White House allies include Ann O’Leary, who served as chief of staff to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D; Gene Sperling, a former Clinton and Obama economic aide; Martha Coven, a former OMB official under President Obama who helped lead the search for Biden’s OMB team; and Sarah Bianchi, a longtime Biden policy aide, according to two of the people.

The Congressional Black Caucus will send a letter to the White House supporting Young, a Black woman, for the position, should Tanden’s nomination get pulled.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chair of the budget committee, spoke with Tanden on Tuesday night before the delay was announced, according to one person granted anonymity to share details of the private conversation. Sanders and Tanden clashed repeatedly during his presidential primary campaigns.

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