Tanden’s nomination has appeared increasingly in jeopardy over the past week as Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and a number of moderate Republican senators announced that they would not vote for her, probably dooming her selection in an evenly divided Senate.
“Members need more time to consider the nomination, so we’re continuing to work with them to find the best path forward,” said an aide to the Homeland Security Committee. Of particular concern on that panel is Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has not indicated how she would vote on Tanden’s nomination.
The White House budget office is at a pivotal juncture, tasked with writing Biden’s budget and overseeing the disbursal of the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to rescue the ailing U.S. economy, once Congress passes it.
The White House continued to defend Tanden’s candidacy on Wednesday despite the obstacles. Manchin and Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about her now-deleted tweets targeting GOP senators, but the administration has praised her as a policy expert well suited to lead the budget office.
“Neera Tanden is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter on Wednesday morning. “She has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to labor unions, and 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.”
Still, chatter has grown among White House allies and on Capitol Hill about a replacement to lead the agency.
Shalanda Young, a former Appropriations Committee staff member nominated by Biden as deputy director of OMB, has emerged as one leading candidate and probably is the front-runner, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share discussions among senior Democrats. Numerous congressional aides of both parties, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal dynamics, predicted that Young would be quickly approved if chosen.
Other names White House allies have discussed in recent days include Ann O’Leary, who served as chief of staff to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D); Gene Sperling, an economic aide in the Clinton and Obama administrations; Martha Coven, a former OMB official under President Barack Obama who helped lead the search for Biden’s OMB team; and Sarah Bianchi, a longtime Biden policy aide, the people said.
The Congressional Black Caucus has been planning a letter to the White House supporting Young, a Black woman, for the position, should Tanden’s nomination be pulled. Sen. Richard C. Shelby Ala.), the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, also expressed support for Young on Wednesday.
“I believe [Young] would be good in that role. She’s smart, she knows the process inside-out, and she’s an honest broker who has demonstrated the ability to work with both sides and get things done,” Shelby said. “She would have my support, and I suspect many of my Republican colleagues would support her, as well. But that’s up to the Biden administration.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Budget Committee, spoke with Tanden on Tuesday night before the delay was announced, according to one person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private conversation. Sanders and Tanden clashed repeatedly during his presidential primary campaigns, and the White House declined to consult Sanders on the Tanden nod for OMB during the transition.