There may only be one thing left to do with Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget — go through its pockets and look for loose change. The White House has become desperate to find at least one Republican vote to make up for the loss of Joe Manchin in Tanden’s Senate confirmation. Their best bets, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, declared Tanden too partisan and her patterns of attacks on members of Congress too toxic for this key position.
Joe Biden’s second-best bets were among the Retiring Caucus. Neither Pat Toomey nor Rob Portman need to worry about alienating their base by voting to confirm the partisan elbow-thrower, and yet both announced last night that they’re also a no:
“When President Biden announced his intention to nominate Ms. Tanden as OMB Director, I expressed concern and urged him to reconsider. As a former OMB Director, I know that the OMB Director has to be able to work productively with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle,” Portman said, pointing to Tanden’s past tweets and public statements.
He added, “While the president has the right to choose his own Cabinet, and thus far I have supported all of this administration’s nominees, I will not be supporting the confirmation of Ms. Tanden.”
“Sen. Toomey will oppose Neera Tanden’s nomination,” Toomey’s spokesperson Bill Jaffee told CNN.
So who’s left? It might be moot, as we still haven’t heard any certainty of support from Democrats Kyrsten Sinema, who has begun to align herself with Manchin these days, or from frequent Tanden target Bernie Sanders. This nomination might already be dead. Isaac Schorr suggests at National Review that the White House might still have two more potential Republicans to woo — Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito:
At first glance, Murkowski would appear to be the easier get — she’s more moderate, with a history of crossing party lines — but she’s also up for reelection in 2022 and has lost GOP primary fights before. She might be reluctant to give Democrats this win.
Murkowski’s a better bet than Moore Capito, though. Why would Moore Capito embarrass Manchin by voting to confirm Tanden when Manchin opposes her for her toxicity — primarily aimed at Republicans? The same goes for Murkowski, who would seem far more likely to stick her thumb in the eye of fellow Republicans rather than Manchin for sticking up to them — but at least she doesn’t answer to Manchin’s constituents.
Manu Raju reports that Senate Democrats have all but given up on Tanden, and are just waiting for the White House to catch up:
Hardening view among Dems in Senate that there’s no path for Neera Tanden. “They're going to have to pull her," one senator told me. It basically hinges on Murkowksi, who hasn’t said yet how she will vote. Sinema declined to comment yesterday when asked about Tanden as well.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 23, 2021
Before the Biden team gives up, they’re playing their last card — the bigot card. It started with Jen Psaki yesterday and her signal about opposition to Tanden being in part hostile to having the “1st Asian American woman” in the OMB position:
Neera Tanden=accomplished policy expert, would be 1st Asian American woman to lead OMB, has lived experience having benefitted from a number of federal programs as a kid, looking ahead to the committee votes this week and continuing to work toward her confirmation
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 22, 2021
And the media reliably picked up on Bill Kristol’s amplification of that messaging:
— Cameron Cawthorne (@Cam_Cawthorne) February 23, 2021
That’s a strange message, considering their target audience. Will that convince Murkowski or Moore Capito to flip, or Sinema to stand fast? Doubtful. None of the three probably worries a single moment about attempts to paint them as anti-woman. It certainly didn’t bother Toomey or Portman, either, or for that matter Collins or Manchin. It’s a last desperate attempt to rescue a profoundly poor choice in a position that relies on collaboration and cooperation rather than partisan bomb-throwing.
And by the way … how does Joe Manchin feel about the suggestion that his opposition is due to his anti-female bigotry? There’s a lot of this session left for Manchin to reconsider his allegiances.
Update: This doesn’t look promising. Even the Democrat chairing the committee that will vote on Tanden tomorrow isn’t sure she has the votes to get approval there:
Sinema sits on his committee but hasn’t said how she’ll vote. Murkowski says she’ll wait til committee votes. Thune on whether any Rs will break ranks: “It’s going to be a hard nomination for them to get across the finish line. … You guys can kind of read the tea leaves.” https://t.co/AA2X7HQIZ0
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 23, 2021
Under the rules of this session in the 50/50 Senate, all nominations can come to the floor even if they fail in committee. If Tanden fails, though, the White House should throw in the towel.