West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin announced today that he will vote against the confirmation of Neera Tanden to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
If the 50 GOP Senators vote together, that would deny the position to Tanden, an outspoken veteran of progressive politics who has risen through the ranks behind her mentors Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.
She is currently the President of the Center for American Progress, where she has served off and on since 2003 when not in a government position.
Tanden’s backstory is interesting because she was one of the Clinton loyalists who joined Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign after he secured the nomination in 2008, after having worked on behalf of the long-anticipated run by Hillary Clinton to win the nomination. Tanden was one of a small handful of Clinton loyalists who were brought into meaningful positions in the Obama campaign.
She graduated from Yale Law School in 1996 but had worked on the campaigns of Michael Dukakis in 1988, then Bill Clinton in 1992. During the course of the Clinton campaign, she became personal friends with Hillary Clinton while working on health care reform issues. After Clinton won in 1992, Tanden joined the staff of the First Lady as a domestic policy advisor. She then enrolled in Yale Law School in the fall of 1993 — seven months into the Clinton Presidency. Bill and Hillary Clinton had both attended Yale Law School. Funny how that works.
After the Clinton Presidency, Tanden was a senior official in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for New York Senator and then served as her Senate Legislative Director from 2003-2005. Prior to joining Clinton’s staff, Tanden played a significant role in the launch of the Center for American Progress, where the first CEO was John Podesta.
After Obama won in 2008, Tanden joined the administration as a senior advisor to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, where she played a large role in drafting the early versions of what would later be passed in a scaled-down version as Obamacare.
She left the Obama Administration in 2010 to return to CAP and took over as CEO from Podesta in 2011. When Podesta was the victim of a “spear-phishing” attack that gave hackers access to his email, many emails exchanged between Podesta and Tanden were among those published by Wikileaks in the summer of 2016. Included were numerous emails in which Tanden used harsh and blunt language to describe others in the Democrat party establishment. Because she has generally opposed single payor and “Medicare for All” health care proposals, Tanden has not been a favorite of the Bernie Bros and other extreme left-wing factions of the Democrat party.
Immediately after the Nov. 3 election, I wrote that the choice of Ron Klain to be Chief of Staff signaled an intention by Biden — or whoever is running the show behind the scenes — to not populate his cabinet with Obama Administration power players but to reach back to individuals from the Clinton Administration for important positions in the Administration. Naming Tanden to be head of OMB would have put a Clintonista in the position of managing the budget requests from all the agencies and departments in the Executive Branch — she would have been the financial “traffic cop.”
But during the Trump Administration, from her position as CEO of CAP, she drew much attention for her outspoken opposition on social media to Pres. Trump, his Administration, and all things GOP that supported him — including many GOP members of the Senate who Manchin and other Democrat Senators must work with to pass any legislation in furtherance of Biden Administration policy goals. Manchin cited her public statements about members of the Senate — on both sides he said — as his basis for opposing her confirmation.
Those may be absolutely legitimate concerns on his part, and he’s right to cite them, but this also is a “brush-back” pitch to the White House and Majority Leader Schumer that they cannot assume they can bludgeon him to fall in line with Administration priorities. As I wrote in this earlier article, he’s already had one very public episode of disagreement with the Administration after Vice President Harris did local news interviews in West Virginia advocating for passage of the Biden Administration COVID relief package that Manchin had already announced his opposition to.
If the GOP sticks together — and I would be shocked if Manchin did not discuss this with Minority Leader McConnell ahead of time to make sure his “play” would be meaningful and keep Tanden from getting confirmed — then Manchin will have drawn first blood from the Administration on the question of just how much his 50th vote matters to them in the Senate.