Neera Tanden lands as White House Staff Secretary

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Neera Tanden was originally nominated by Joe Biden to lead the Office of Management and Budget but that nomination went nowhere fast as the GOP raised objections, mostly based on Tanden’s aggressive partisanship. Her long history on social media, particularly Twitter, was a train wreck loaded with nasty tweets posted against Republicans. She was unable to secure a vote in the Senate and was eventually named a senior advisor to the president, position that doesn’t require confirmation

Tanden’s biggest cheerleader in the White House is Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, so it was clear that bigger things were ahead for her. A White House official announced this morning that she’ll become the White House staff secretary effective Monday in addition to retaining her role as a senior adviser. That means she’ll be the chief executive’s top paper wrangler, managing the decision-making process and organizing meetings. She’s failing up, not down.

Ms. Tanden will serve as staff secretary, a White House official said, a little-known but influential position that will put her at the center of many of the Biden administration’s policy debates. As staff secretary, Ms. Tanden will be tasked with managing the decision-making process inside the White House, organizing meetings on policy issues, and overseeing the approval of key documents like executive orders.

She will replace Jessica Hertz, a former Facebook lawyer who is leaving the administration. Ms. Hertz’s last day is Friday and Ms. Tanden will take over as staff secretary on Monday, the White House official said. The staff secretary position doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

It wasn’t just opposition from Republicans to her nomination to head OMB. Joe Manchin also objected at the time.

She compared Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to Voldemort, the Harry Potter villain; referred to Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) as “the worst”; and said “vampires have more heart” than Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). She has also clashed with progressive activists and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.). Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, said he would oppose her nomination, making her confirmation unlikely.

In March, Ms. Tanden asked that her nomination be withdrawn in a letter to Mr. Biden. The White House subsequently pulled her nomination.

Tanden has a reputation as a political partisan who aggressively attacks Republicans, often in a personal way. She led the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) for some time and often appeared as a political talking head on cable television channels as well as Sunday political talk shows. Notably, the president and CEO of CAP, Patrick Gaspard, most recently served as the president of the Open Society Foundations, the George Soros-founded advocacy network.

The Washington Post reports that it was Ron Klain who made the announcement during a morning staff call today.

“The Staff Secretary role is the central nervous system of the White House and moves the decision-making process and manages a wide variety of issues for the President,” a White House official said. “Neera has over two decades of experience in policy and management which are critical elements of the role. Her experience across domestic, economic and national security policy will be a key asset in this new role.”

She’s a longtime member of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle and served as an adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration. While serving as a senior adviser to Biden, she worked on the administration’s response to the Supreme Court’s review of Obamacare and on shoring up support from outside groups for Biden’s economic agenda. She’s expected to continue to work on specific projects. But now, as staff secretary, she’ll be in the driver’s seat on them.

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