For the second time this week, Republican senators grilled President Biden’s pick to head the White House budget office over her history of controversial tweets – infuriating critics of the GOP who said the lawmakers were hypocritical for chastising nominee Neera Tanden while failing to speak up about former president Donald Trump’s incendiary tweetstorms now at the center of an impeachment inquiry.
During a heated back-and-forth, Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., known for his colorful expressions, accused Tanden of attacking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“You called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut,” he said, evoking the sexist term famously satirized on “Saturday Night Live.”
He asked Tanden nine times in a row if she meant her tweets when she sent them. Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, didn’t immediately answer the question but then said, “I must have meant them, but I really regret them.”
Kennedy’s line of questioning during the Senate Budget Committee hearing came a day after other Republican lawmakers called Tanden’s past online remarks “combative” and said they clashed with Biden’s promise of unity.
“You wrote that Susan Collins is the worst, that Tom Cotton is a fraud, that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz. You called leader McConnell: Moscow Mitch and Voldemort, and on and on,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said to Tanden during the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee hearing on Tuesday.
The confirmation hearing came as Democrats used Trump’s own remarks to accuse the former president of inciting a mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Referencing how Republicans have dodged offering comments about Trump tweets by saying they don’t read Twitter, critics said the lawmakers were not holding Tanden to the same standard as Trump.
“The impeachment managers are reminding us of the many dangerous lies Trump tweeted, which so many Republicans ignored, dismissed or pretended they hadn’t seen,” tweeted Christina Reynolds, a vice president of Emily’s List, a leading Democratic women’s group. “And yet Neera Tanden is being made to repeatedly apologize for insulting senators?”
“Every Republican has said much worse things about Ted Cruz privately than Neera tweeted publicly,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama White House staffer, tweeted.
Ahead of the confirmation process, Claire McCaskill, a former Democratic senator from Missouri, ridiculed Republicans for possibly going after Tanden, calling it a “whole new level of hypocrisy.”
Tanden, a Clinton loyalist and prolific tweeter, has had a combative history with Republicans, as well as deep ties to Democratic policymakers. She helped draft the Affordable Care Act when she served as a senior adviser to former president Barack Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services.
At the hearing on Wednesday, Tanden also faced questions from Democrats, who asked about the millions of dollars in corporate donations to her liberal think tank, which were previously reported by The Washington Post.
While apologizing, Tanden said her comments were made amid the last four years of “polarized” discourse. Ahead of her confirmation process, Tanden deleted more than 1,000 tweets in November, the Daily Beast reported.
Referencing the former president’s tweets, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said at Wednesday’s hearing that the last four years were marked by “the ultimate mean tweets.”
“I know we were all thinking that,” Stabenow said to Tanden. “And certainly I don’t want to hold you to a higher standard, but we certainly want to turn the page on how we move forward together.”
Sanders did not read Tanden’s tweets out loud but called her past posts “vicious” and asked her if she would quit personal attacks in her prospective position in the Biden administration.
“My approach will be radically different,” Tanden responded.