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Liberal activist who helped craft Obamacare contraceptive mandate withdraws Cabinet nomination

Liberal activist who helped craft Obamacare contraceptive mandate withdraws Cabinet nomination

White House Office of Budget and Management director nominee Neera Tanden testifies before the U.S. Senate on Feb. 9, 2021 in Washington, D.C. | YouTube/CSPAN

President Joe Biden has withdrawn the nomination of Neera Tanden to serve as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget after senators on both sides of the aisle indicated they would not vote to confirm her.

In a statement Tuesday, Biden announced Tanden's request to withdraw her nomination and indicated that he still wanted the longtime political operative to play an active role in his administration.

"I have accepted Neera Tanden's request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden stated. “I have the utmost respect for her and her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work."

The White House also shared a copy of the letter Tanden sent to Biden announcing her decision to withdraw her nomination. 

"It has been an honor of a lifetime to be considered for this role and for the faith placed in me," she wrote.

While Tanden expressed gratitude for the White House's efforts to secure her nomination, she admitted that "[i]t seems now that there is no clear path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want consideration of my confirmation to be a distraction from your other priorities." 

Tanden, who currently heads the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and has a long history of bashing politicians on social media, concluded her letter by praising Biden's "leadership on behalf of the American people and for your agenda that will make such a transformative difference in people's lives." 

Tanden's acknowledgment that she lacks a “clear path” to nomination comes after the Senate Homeland Security Committee delayed a vote on her nomination because "members need more time to consider the nominee." 

The Homeland Security Committee's decision was a result of bipartisan opposition to Tanden's confirmation. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced last month that he would not support her confirmation, citing "overly partisan statements" she made on social media in the past as a cause for concern. 

With a narrow 50-50 margin in the Senate, Tanden's confirmation would have required the support of all 50 Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris, who would serve as the tie-breaking vote. 

With Manchin's opposition, Tanden would have needed to pick up support from at least one Senate Republican to secure the votes needed for confirmation. 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate, indicated that she would not support Tanden’s confirmation on Feb. 22. 

According to Collins, "Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament" to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

Concerns about Tanden's temperament and partisan tweets directed primarily at congressional Republicans came up during her Feb. 9 confirmation hearing

When questioning the nominee, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., pointed out that Tanden had a history of taking to Twitter to call Republican politicians "criminally ignorant," "corrupt" and "the worst." He also questioned why Tanden referred to people with religious convictions against the Obamacare contraceptive mandate as “extreme.” 

Tanden previously served as senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While in that role, she worked on provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Grace Meng and DNC Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus Chair Bel Leong-Hong touted Tanden as “one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act” who “helped expand access to health care for millions of Americans, including no copay birth control for more than 55 million women.”

Tanden is the first of Biden's Cabinet nominees to withdraw her name from consideration due to bipartisan opposition. 

Many of the president's confirmed Cabinet members have enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.

While Tanden's withdrawal marks the first unsuccessful Cabinet nomination of the Biden presidency, it is not uncommon for presidents to experience such setbacks. 

In 2009, as he enjoyed a much larger Senate majority of 59 Democrats, President Barack Obama had three Cabinet nominees withdraw their names from consideration. 

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