Monday? That’s a long time to let the White House twist in the wind, and it might not even pay off. It does, however, raise questions about why two Senate committees postponed their votes on Neera Tanden’s confirmation to OMB:
GOP Sen Murkowski will meet with Tanden on Monday as her nomination to become Biden’s budget director hangs in balance, source familiar tells me
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) February 26, 2021
It certainly doesn’t appear that Lisa Murkowski is in any hurry to resolve the situation. The question, though, is whether she can resolve it. Murkowski doesn’t sit on either the Homeland Security or Budget committees, so her lack of decision wouldn’t have had any direct impact on Tanden’s committee vote. However, Kyrsten Sinema sits on HSGAC while Bernie Sanders chairs the Budget committee.
Sanders at one time expressed support for Tanden, although it’s not entirely clear whether he’s still a yes on his former social-media troll. Sinema is still not talking about her position on Tanden, at least publicly. If she was inclined to support Tanden, however, HSGAC would have just held their vote, get the tie, and let Tanden move to a floor vote. If either of them, and especially if both of them, oppose Tanden now, then Murkowski’s just a sideshow. Although thanks to Tanden’s still-extant tweet attacking Murkowski, it’s an entertaining sideshow:
On Wednesday, Ms. Murkowski told reporters that “it looks like I’ve got more time to be thinking about things,” citing a decision by Democrats to delay two committee hearings that would have advanced Ms. Tanden’s nomination. When shown a copy of a tweet that Ms. Tanden had posted in 2017 disparaging Ms. Murkowski, the senator added that she “was trying to look at competence, but apparently I’m going to have to do more looking into what she thinks about me.”
So why the high-profile meeting with Murkowski this late in the process? Two scenarios come to mind. In the first, Sanders is still a yes, but Sinema will refuse unless the White House can find a Republican to come along. Murkowski’s their last option. If Murkowski doesn’t play ball, the White House will have to withdraw Tanden from consideration and give her an advisory role in the administration instead.
The second scenario: Sinema is already a hard no on Tanden, and so is Murkowski. Murkowski is giving the White House time to get a win over the weekend on its COVID-19 bill in the House to help bury the Tandenocalypse a bit, or to give them time to quietly withdraw Tanden over the weekend while the House votes on the relief/stimulus bill.
I’d bet more on the second scenario than the first, but either’s possible. Stay tuned — until Monday at the latest, it seems.