I’d been wondering what happened to this. We had a cliffhanger over the weekend when Lisa Murkowski, the lone Republican undecided, said she would meet with Tanden on Monday. Monday came and went, and no news. Then Tuesday morning came and went — with no news.
Whatever could be taking so long?
Was Murkowski negotiating with Sleepy Joe for her vote, maybe? John Thune seemed to think so:
Murkowski has been sharply critical of some of Biden’s energy policies, including a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Among many other issues, the senator also has been working to get a road project built — called King Cove Road — that the Obama administration opposed because it would hurt wildlife…
“Well, I just think she’s got some concerns about the economy in Alaska, and there are some policies the administration has taken already with respect to energy that are very harmful to Alaska,” Thune told CNN. “I think she is trying to have a conversation with them about things they could do to improve the economic outlook for Alaska.”
Asked if it was about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Thune said, “I’m not going to get into the specifics. I’m sure she can talk to you about that. I just think that she wants to get their attention on some things that are important to her state and she’s got — as any senator does through the nomination process — quite a bit of leverage to do that.”
“I’m not asking the administration to make any accommodations to me or to Alaska for the Tanden nomination or any nomination,” Murkowski insisted later, which is interesting because it sure sounds like she was asking them to make accommodations:
MURKOWSKI: "I am not asking the administration to make any accommodations to me or to Alaska for a Tanden nomination or any nomination."
Says she's taking her time to make sure those in Biden admin now (or in the future) "understands how Alaska's economy is situated right now."
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) March 2, 2021
She just happened to broach the subject of Alaska’s economic needs with the White House at the very moment they needed her vote on a key nominee? What?
Either her asking price was too steep or Biden didn’t have 50 votes even *with* Murkowski because Tanden is done as of this evening according to the Washington Post:
The White House plans to withdraw the nomination of Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget as early as Tuesday evening, according to people familiar with the matter.
Tanden was facing bipartisan opposition from senators due to past intemperate comments she made on her Twitter feed. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) announced last month that he would oppose her, meaning Tanden would need the support of at least one Republican to be confirmed in the evenly-divided Senate…
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been weighing whether to support Tanden and met with the nominee earlier this week. Murkowski reiterated earlier Tuesday that she remained undecided on Tanden.
Technically, Biden didn’t end up withdrawing her nomination. Tanden dropped out, no doubt having discovered at some point today that she couldn’t get to 50:
Neera out pic.twitter.com/yCyw0y9NHF
— David Dayen (@ddayen) March 2, 2021
She’ll be moved into some executive-branch position that doesn’t require confirmation, rest assured. Biden has used that M.O. before with Susan Rice, in fact, designating her as the incoming head of his Domestic Policy Council in December because he knew she couldn’t get through a GOP-controlled Senate if nominated as Secretary of State. (Imagine Rice’s chagrin when the Senate turned out to be controlled by Democrats.) Who ended up administering the coup de grace to Tanden, though? Suspicions will focus on Murkowski for obvious reasons, but remember that both of Arizona’s Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, were quiet about how they’d vote. Maybe the White House was considering some sort of policy bribe to Murky for her vote but then checked in with Sinema and Kelly and discovered that they wouldn’t have 50 even with the Republican onboard:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski tells me and @ESCochrane that she did not tell the White House how she would vote on Tanden and says they never asked. She seemed surprised to hear Tanden’s nom is being pulled.
— Alex Bolton (@alexanderbolton) March 3, 2021
Needless to say, Biden and the two Arizonans would much prefer that Democrats believe Murkowski administered the death blow than that a fellow Dem did. Although, if I had to bet, I’d bet that Sinema and Kelly were both very reluctant yeses who’d vote to confirm if and only if Biden could find 48 votes without them. Maybe, between Murkowski’s asking price and the two Dems’ discomfort, Biden and Ron Klain ultimately decided that Tanden just wasn’t worth it.
The official cause of death for her nomination will be her habit of sending scathing tweets about some of the senators who ended up having to vote on her nomination, but I wonder if there wasn’t more to it. This bit from a WaPo story published on Sunday caught my eye:
In 2017, Pruss and two other former CAP colleagues discussed Tanden in three-way text messages, which Pruss shared with The Post.
“She was/ is the worst,” said one of the other former staffer, in one message. “i basically just remember her saying how horrible my clothes were, asking why anyone would date me, ordering me around for literally everything, going into a dressing room with her.”
In another message, the staffer wrote: “I can’t believe what she gets away with.”
An abusive boss? The same staffer told WaPo that the text messages “are taken out of context and completely misconstrue my relationship with Neera” and that the two are “close friends,” but that’s the sort of thing you *would* say about a powerful, tapped-in figure like Tanden who could make trouble for you if you didn’t do your best to spin an unflattering revelation that damaged her career.
Whatever the truth, her behavior towards her deputies isn’t so bad that Biden is cutting her loose entirely. He’s already promising publicly to give her a job somewhere in his administration, in fact. Given his zero-tolerance policy for aides who treat others with incivility, we’ll see how long she lasts.
Update: Every Democrat except Joe Manchin and possibly Sinema and Kelly was willing to apply this lowly standard and confirm:
Some WH officials saying Neera Tanden should have been judged against things Trump said.
One source told me: "You should be judged by the time. And the time we were in, we had a fool in the WH tweeting all kinds of shit. So, it's just remarkable that people can't separate that."
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 3, 2021