Nah, c'mon: Is Chuck Grassley going to rescue Neera Tanden?

I’d put the odds of him voting to confirm her at 99-1 against.

But an hour ago I would have put them at 100-0, and that seems incorrect in light of the tweet below.

It’s hard to imagine Chuck Grassley saving a nominee who proved too nasty for Democrat Joe Manchin, but he’s at least holding out the possibility as of 5:30 p.m. ET. Why hasn’t a Republican elder statesmen like him already given her thumbs down?

It’s possible that Biden is dangling some sort of goodie at Grassley behind the scenes to entice him to vote yes, or that he’s leveraging their friendship to lobby him. (They served together in the Senate for more than 25 years before Biden became VP.) Adding a bit of intrigue here is the fact that Grassley is 87 and up for reelection in 2022, and as of today he still hasn’t decided whether he plans to run again. If he’s leaning towards retirement, that makes a vote for Tanden to help Biden out for old times’ sake much easier.

Although, really: Is an Iowa institution like Chuck Grassley realistically going to be primaried over one cabinet vote that no one will remember next week?

Grassley isn’t the White House’s top target, of course. Lisa Murkowski, the lone undecided RINO, is. But, uh, it’s not going great for Tanden this afternoon:

Murkowski’s one of the few Republicans in the Senate who can take exception to a politician’s tweets without seeming like a hypocrite. There’s another X factor here, though — namely, Kyrsten Sinema. She’s also nominally undecided on Tanden as of this afternoon, but Ed made the astute point this morning that the Homeland Security Committee vote on Tanden probably wouldn’t have been canceled if it was a 14-14 party-line deadlock. What likely happened is that Sinema decided she was a no and, in order to spare Biden the embarrassment of losing the committee vote, quietly informed the White House that they should withdraw the nomination instead. The Budget Committee was also supposed to vote on Tanden today and Bernie Sanders, its chairman, seemed to confirm Ed’s suspicions this afternoon that Tanden just doesn’t have the votes right now:

Neither Manchin nor Sinema sits on the Budget Committee, so if Tanden’s short a vote there, she’s all but finished. Grassley also happens to be a member of the Budget Committee, incidentally, which may explain why the White House is so eager to win him over. If there’s a surprise Democratic no vote among its members, they’d need Grassley to cancel that person out.

As for Sinema, the lobbying effort continues behind the scenes:

If they can hold Sinema and if there are no surprise anti-Tanden Dems on the Budget Committee then flipping Murkowski is all they need. Hard to tell right now whether the Grassley lobbying effort is a back-up plan or whether they think they’re actually going to need two Republicans before this is over.

Just to add a little more intrigue, Politico reports that one of Tanden’s friends and boosters is letting it be known behind the scenes that she’d make a fine replacement OMB nominee in case Neera goes down in flames:

Ann O’Leary, who recently served as California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff, has emerged in recent days as a possible replacement for Tanden should her nomination to OMB fail. A longtime Democratic operative and Hillary Clinton campaign alum, O’Leary was in consideration for the post during the first go-around, and her name has reemerged alongside the possibility that the spot could come open again…

But, at the same time, O’Leary has not shied away from touting her own qualification for the Biden administration’s top budget job should that no longer be the case. In conversations with numerous Democratic associates since her name began appearing in news stories as a possible fallback option, O’Leary has portrayed herself as a skilled policy architect and less partisan alternative, according to three Democrats familiar with the exchanges. O’Leary has gone as far as telling them that she could be confirmed by the Senate, two of the sources told POLITICO.

O’Leary is allegedly encouraging the White House to keep trying to find the votes to confirm Tanden, per Politico, but whether that’s a matter of earnest support or of simply not wanting to seem too ruthless in lobbying for Tanden’s would-be job is an open question.

By the way, Manchin made an interesting move this afternoon when he announced that he’ll be supporting far-left Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior. Maybe that’s due to the demagoguery that’s been directed at him for supposedly harboring bias against women of color as cabinet nominees. Haaland would be the first Native American cabinet member, so Manchin’s vote for her will counter that perception. But it’s also possible that Manchin is behaving strategically to stay on the right side of his very Republican home state, nuking Tanden to satisfy conservatives while believing that that’ll buy him some political capital to confirm the lower-profile Haaland. I’m curious to see what he does with Xavier Becerra, whose nomination will also be closely watched by Republican voters. Stay tuned.