The announcement by Manchin, D-W.Va., underscored the fragility of the ambitions for the new Democratic majority in the Senate and the outsize power anyone senator holds over the success of Biden’s administration and agenda.
The fate of the nomination is now in the hands of a party Tanden has frequently criticized in the past, particularly moderate Republicans she has previously scorned. Tanden would need the support of at least one Republican senator in order to pass confirmation, with the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris needed to break a tie.
Given Tanden’s previous litany of critical public statements and posts on Twitter against members of both parties, it is unclear whether such support exists.
Manchin cited statements from Tanden that were personally directed at Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader; Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent now in charge of the Senate Budget Committee; and other colleagues.
“I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” said Manchin, who will also likely cast a decisive vote on Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. “For this reason, I cannot support her nomination. As I have said before, we must take meaningful steps to end the political division and dysfunction that pervades our politics.”
Biden, returning to Washington on Friday, told reporters he did not plan to withdraw her nomination. “I think we are going to find the votes and get her confirmed,” he said.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, reiterated that position in a statement: “Neera Tanden is an accomplished policy expert who would be an excellent budget director and we look forward to the committee votes next week and to continuing to work toward her confirmation through engagement with both parties.”
But the lack of support from Manchin could be enough to derail the nomination altogether, should Republicans remain united against her selection.
Tanden would be the first woman of color to head the Office of Management and Budget, an agency that is critical to the execution of the administration’s economic and policy agendas. But Biden’s decision to nominate Tanden even before Democrats won back control of the Senate in January stunned several lawmakers and aides on Capitol Hill, given the slim margins in the upper chamber and Tanden’s prolific venom on social media.
Republicans spent the first hour of her first hearing before a Senate homeland security committee asking Tanden to explain her past tweets and why she deleted more than 1,000 shortly after the November election.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, himself a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, read aloud posts in which she called McConnell “Moscow Mitch” and said that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” referring to the Texas Republican.
Her second hearing was no less fiery, with Sanders confronting Tanden over her history of leveling personal attacks on social media. He also demanded details about the donations the Center for American Progress received from corporations under her leadership and a promise that it would not influence her work in the administration.
Tanden apologized to lawmakers during both hearings, saying she regretted many of her previous remarks, and vowed that the donations would carry no weight over her role as budget director.
“I worry less about what Mrs. Tanden did in the past than what she’s going to do in the future,” Sanders said Friday night on CNN. “I’m talking to her early next week.”
Biden’s pick for deputy director of the agency, Shalanda Young, is respected by lawmakers and aides in both parties after serving as staff director for House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee. The first Black woman to serve in the role, she helped wrangle the compromise that ended the nation’s longest government shutdown in 2019 and the coronavirus relief packages Congress approved in 2020.