Translation: The Neera Tanden nomination to OMB has just about reached its “go through its pockets and look for loose change” stage. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee scheduled their recommendation vote for 10 am ET this morning, but now it has apparently been postponed — indefinitely:
Neera Tanden's 10 am HSGAC markup has just been postponed, according to a notice that was just sent out
— Marianne LeVine (@marianne_levine) February 24, 2021
The committee vote has been postponed on Tanden because senators want more time to consider the nomination, per committee official. Not a good sign for her getting the votes. Sen. Sinema sits on the committee and hasn’t said how she would vote
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 24, 2021
According to the rules of this 50/50 session, nominees advance to the floor even if the committee recommends against their confirmation. That’s great theoretically, but in practice it’s only prolonging the embarrassment. If the committee had a 14-14 tie, they’d take the vote and twist arms on the Senate floor. The only reason to delay today’s vote is if Tanden lost a Democrat and the vote would come out 13-15, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has been veeeeerrrrry coy about her decision on Tanden. If Sinema told the committee she would oppose Tanden, then that would explain this delay — as Senate Democrat leadership tries to get the White House to withdraw the nomination rather than get embarrassed by a loss in both the committee and on the floor.
So far the White House isn’t backing down, but that may change rapidly:
After vote was postponed, the White House says they are NOT pulling Neera Tanden's nomination, saying she "has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden's cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB."
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) February 24, 2021
In other words, the White House is still playing the bigot card even after it either hasn’t had an impact or perhaps even backfired. The issue isn’t Tanden’s ethnicity — it’s her track record of nastiness toward the same people with whom Tanden would have to work. That problem was immediately apparent when Joe Biden picked Tanden for this role, not just on Capitol Hill but to anyone who paid attention to Tanden’s social-media stream over the past decade at the Center for American Progress. They were warned repeatedly that Tanden would be nearly impossible to confirm, and then didn’t do much to deal with the situation, as Politico reported last night:
Just about everyone in Washington, D.C., could see that Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget was beleaguered from the beginning — everyone, that is, except the White House. …
But those bets weren’t supplemented by an aggressive lobbying effort on Tanden’s behalf. One senior Democratic Senate staffer complained that even early on in her confirmation fight, the White House was lackluster in its advocacy for her and tone-deaf to the chillier reception she was getting on the Hill. There were questions about how many champions she even had at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Who does she have? Ron Klain. That’s her constituency,” the staffer said.
And despite Tanden’s Atonement Tour, her actions spoke a lot louder than her words. One of her first choices — or that of the White House — of deputies was a fellow CAP troll that had particularly targeted Susan Collins. D’oh!
By Tuesday Collins said that the installation of Topher Spiro, a former Center for American Progress staffer and a Collins critic on Twitter, at the OMB “raises questions of whether she’s even capable of leaving behind her 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 in OMB?” she asked. She suggested Jeff Zients — Biden’s point man on the Covid crisis — would have been a far better choice than Tanden. The administration declined to comment on Spiro, who has deleted several tweets attacking Collins, which were posted years ago.
The White House has no one to blame but itself for the entirely predictable fiasco of nominating Tanden to a Senate-nominated position. Their only hope in avoiding further embarrassment is for Tanden to help wipe the egg off her face with a withdrawal of her name from consideration. Get ready for that soon, perhaps as early as today.
Update: I had forgotten that both HSGAC and Budget committees had to vote on Tanden. The Budget Committee also pushed off its scheduled vote:
Neera Tanden saw both of her Senate committee votes postponed Wednesday morning, the latest sign that her nomination to become director of the White House budget office is on the brink of collapse.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Budget committees sent out notices Wednesday saying that their slated votes on Tanden’s nomination to become director of the Office of Management and Budget would be delayed.
The Budget Committee delay is interesting. There does not seem to be a reason to doubt that Tanden would get anything but a straight party-line tie, which would normally be sufficient in a 50/50 Senate. Of course, Budget’s chair is frequent Tanden target Bernie Sanders, too. Hmmmmm.