How the White House botched the Neera nomination

Biden and his aides insist that Tanden’s prospects are not doomed. But her fate now depends on Senator Lisa Murkowski coming in to save the nomination. Even if the If an independent Alaska Republican did so, the saga would still be one of the biggest missteps by Biden’s fledgling presidency, which raises questions about the White House’s political acumen and its ability to manage relations on the hill. The president himself appeared to accept on Tuesday that the tanden nom could end in defeat.

“We’ll push,” said Biden on Tuesday. “We still think there’s a shot, a good shot.”

Tanden’s nomination was jeopardized last Friday when Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) Announced his opposition, a development that surprised the Democrats. But the seeds of their rocky reception on the hill had been planted weeks earlier with misjudgments from the White House – including that moderate Senate Democrats would rally behind the presidential nominee list and that Republican opposition would ease.

“Here the opposition is always looking for the person to fight over. And she would be the obvious person who could be eradicated from the herd, “said a Senate Democrat, referring to the GOP opposition wall that Tanden was faced with from the start.

For a while, the White House felt that Tanden was avoiding their present fate. She atoned for her now infamous Twitter behavior and brought forward her personal story of a tough life, lived on grocery stamps and raised by a single mother. And allies as before Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who consults frequently with the White House, predicted that both parties would come on board Due to the historical nature of her nomination: Tanden was the first South Asian woman to head the agency. At the White House, notes from the Chamber of Commerce and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels – himself a former OMB chief – were pushed aside in hopes that they would provide cover to Republicans to aid them.

Elsewhere, the belief was that the Trump years, with the Senate approving Mick Mulvaney and Russ Vought as OMB directors after long careers in conservative politics, would make it difficult to oppose a candidate because of the tenor of their tweets .

“The truth is that she was critical left and right. What the hell? I actually know her, I think she’s a good person,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “I don’t think of that Fight is over. Not until it’s either drawn or the vote is negative. “

However, these bets were not backed up by aggressive lobbying for Tanden. A senior Democratic Senate official complained that the White House failed to stand up for her early on in her confirmation battle and was deaf to the cooler reception she received on the hill. There were questions about how many champions she even had at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Who does she have? Ron Klain. This is her constituency, ”said the employee.

However, a source close to the White House countered that Biden had personally supported Tanden from the start, thinking she was making “a strong case for Republicans and Democrats for their support”.

The legislature, however, did not feel in a position to endorse Tanden’s nomination. As of Monday, she had held 35 meetings with senators – although it was unclear with whom. Administrative officials had sought early meetings with moderates like Manchin, but he did not speak to her prior to their meeting on Monday – after announcing opposition to her nomination.

And there was open confusion among staff as to whether or not she had a Sherpa (she did) to help with her nomination, and the Senators said they were not convinced by the idea that Tanden was uniquely qualified for the position .

“Doesn’t seem like she has a great chance,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va). “There’s a part of me that says, why do you put people up for positions – and that’s not just Biden doing that – where you know they have so much baggage that it’s going to be a tough climb?”

Tanden has tried in the last few days to correct perceived deficiencies. 24 hours after the White House announced it had these 35 meetings, press secretary Jen Psaki said Tanden spoke to 44 senators. Tanden had asked the staff of Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to meet, even though Collins had dug in further the more she searched Tanden’s file.

On Tuesday, Collins said that the installation by Topher Spiro, a former Center for American Progress employee and Collins critic on Twitter, “raises questions about the OMB’s ability to move beyond its extremely partisan approach.” “. Collins called Spiro a “troll of mine”.

“Why would you put someone who is a troll against a United States Senator in a key position at OMB?” She asked. She suggested that Jeff Zients – Biden’s leading man in the Covid crisis – would have been a far better choice than Tanden. The government declined to comment on Spiro, who deleted several tweets attacking Collins and published years ago.

Two committees will vote on things on Wednesday. Senate budget chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Who had targeted Den Tanden in the past, has not yet said he supports them. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Who works in the Committee for Internal Security, did not do this either.

The White House has continued to hold its ground across the board. “We believe there is more than one way,” a source close to the nomination talks said Tuesday, but wouldn’t get any more specific than saying it was Republicans.

Mitch McConnell has since told his caucus that he wants Republicans to stick together in the tanden vote, according to two sources who are aware of the Senate minority leader’s remarks.

Republicans believe Murkowski, who attended but did not respond to McConnell’s request, is the only GOP lawmaker seriously considering sponsoring Tanden. But even she seems unlikely – it does little help at home to convict Trump in his impeachment trial and then turn around and save Biden’s most vulnerable candidate.

Other Republicans who generally believe Biden should approve his cabinet saw no reason to give the president anything so much reverence. Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, met with Tanden and said he had “heard from a number of colleagues and friends of Neera Tanden who have been very supportive of us.”

But he found their behavior “inconsistent with my past voting,” he said, “and the criticism I have given others in the past for their mean tweets. And inconsistent with the president’s vision of one friendlier environment. “

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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