Biden hires Neera Tanden into the White House
By Tyler Pager,
President Biden has tapped Neera Tanden to serve as a senior adviser in the White House, bringing her into the administration after her Cabinet nomination was withdrawn two months ago due to opposition in the Senate.
Tanden had initially been selected to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget, but her path to confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who expressed concern over her past social media posts taking shots at various political figures.
Manchin’s opposition was enough to doom her prospects in a Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. It marked the only defeat for a Biden Cabinet pick.
Tanden’s new job at the White House does not require Senate confirmation. Her portfolio will include health-care policy and overseeing a review of the U.S. Digital Service, according to a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.
The official said Tanden will be responsible, among other things, for preparing contingency plans for potential Supreme Court rulings that may result from Republican legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. Tanden worked as a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration and helped draft parts of the former president’s signature health care law.
The U.S. Digital Service is responsible for making the government accessible to Americans online.
Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, is particularly close to Tanden and played a significant role in her initial selection for the Cabinet. He was also instrumental in her landing her new job at the White House.
Tanden’s nomination was scuttled because senators took issue with many of her politically charged tweets, some of which attacked Republican senators by name during the Trump administration. Tanden also often criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the 2016 election.
She apologized for her tweets in her confirmation hearing, but after Manchin said he would vote against her, she had no viable path for confirmation. Tanden is the only Biden nominee so far who has failed to be confirmed, and her withdrawal marked one of Biden’s few political setbacks in his first 100 days.
The president’s decision to bring her into the White House could be seen as a defiant gesture toward the senators who failed to confirm her, but Biden made it clear shortly after withdrawal that he would find a way to put her on his team.
“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 said in a statement after Tanden withdrew. “She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”
Shalanda Young, who was confirmed as the deputy OMB director, is currently serving as the acting director of the office. Biden has not nominated a replacement for Tanden, but House Democrats have pushed him to select Young for the permanent spot.
Tanden’s withdrawal left only one Asian American appointed to a Cabinet-level job in the Biden administration — Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative.
That has prompted Asian American and Pacific Islander groups to pressure Biden to replace Tanden, who is Indian American, with another person of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. Many AAPI leaders and groups have rallied behind Nani Coloretti, a former Obama administration official, for the job.
Tanden, who was a close ally of Hillary Clinton, joins the administration from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. She previously worked in the White House during the Clinton administration.
John Podesta, the founder of the center, praised Tanden on Friday.
“Neera’s intellect, tenacity, and political savvy will be an asset to the Biden administration as she assumes a new role as senior advisor to the President,” he said in a statement, adding, “I am exceptionally thrilled to see her step into a new position serving this White House and the American people.”