One of former vice president Joe Biden’s cabinet picks has come under fire from conservatives over her role in crafting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate and her past comments about Republicans.
Former vice president Joe Biden has nominated Neera Tanden, a prominent progressive political operative, to serve as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, a key cabinet position, should he win the presidency as media outlets have projected. Tanden serves as the director of the Center for American Progress, a far-left think tank.
As explained in her biography on the Center for American Progress’ website, Tanden “previously served as senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In that role, she developed policies around reform and worked with Congress and stakeholders on particular provisions of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement—the Affordable Care Act.”
In response to Biden’s selection of Tanden as his pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Grace Meng and DNC Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus Chair Bel Leong-Hong released a statement touting her 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.”
To fund the “no copay birth control,” the law forced employers to cover the cost of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their healthcare plans.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, wrote an op-ed piece for Life News citing Tanden’s “pivotal role in writing the notorious Health and Human Services (HHS Mandate)” that “sought to force Catholic nonprofit organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization in their healthcare plans” as one of “several reasons why Catholics cannot trust her.”
“When Catholic bishops objected to the HHS mandate, Tanden was miffed, saying this initiative was a matter of healthcare, not religious liberty,” he added. “Yet the fact was that under this provision, Catholics would be required to pay for abortifacients. Such a flagrant violation of their conscience rights, grounded in their religion, mattered not a whit to her.”
A 2012 email published by Wikileaks showed Tanden discussing an article she wrote about the contraceptive coverage debate and the Catholic Church’s position on the issue for The New Republic with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “There’s clearly a potent strain of misogyny in our country – and some events (contraception, your campaign) finally expose it,” she wrote. She added that “the Church still scares the crap out of” a lot of Obama administration officials.
Senate Republicans have also expressed concern about Tanden, specifically taking issue with several tweets she sent out lambasting Republicans. According to Drew Brandewie, a spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, “Neera Tanden, who has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators’ whose votes she’ll need, stands zero chance of being confirmed,” he wrote on Twitter.
As The Daily Beast reported Monday, Tanden “deleted over one thousand tweets from her personal Twitter account since the beginning of November. A number of them, since recovered by The Daily Beast, contain comments directed at powerful lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that could turn a relationship to ice before her Senate confirmation hearing to lead the Office of Management and Budget takes place next year.”
In one deleted tweet, she referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who would control the Senate if Republicans maintain control of the upper chamber, as “#MoscowMitch,” illustrating that she shares the belief held by other Democrats and progressives that McConnell is an agent of Russia.
Following President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, Tanden released a statement accusing the president of participating in an “ongoing conspiracy against the United States,” once again advancing the perception that Republicans are co-opted by a hostile foreign power.
Cornyn himself described Tanden as “radioactive,” saying, “It’s pretty crazy to me to think that she can go back and … eliminate all the tweets that she’s sent out over the last, whatever, months, years. And I think it’s really a misstep in the administration.”
Tanden’s fate could hinge on the partisan makeup of the Senate, which remains up for grabs ahead of two runoff elections in Georgia. Should Republicans win one or both of those races, they would maintain control of the Senate. If all Republicans vote against her, they would be able to block her confirmation.
Even if Democrats win both runoffs and gain control of the Senate, Tanden has also drawn the ire of progressives over her criticism of some progressive policies. Climate change activist and Sen. Bernie Sanders surrogate, Josh Fox, told The Daily Beast that he has reservations about Tanden because of her criticism of “progressive policies like a ban on fracking, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All.”