Great Britain

Biden defends selecting Tanden as budget chief as Republicans vow to block nomination

Amid a wave of fierce Republican opposition, President-elect Joe Biden defended picking Neera Tandem as his budget director by contending her “practical experience” will help the pandemic-torn economy bounce back.

The incoming president praised the longtime Clinton adviser’s “brilliant policy mind” and what he called her “practical experience across government” as he formally introduced his economic team.

“She understands the struggles that millions of Americans are facing” due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said, noting that, if confirmed, she would oversee building his first budget, which he contended would “control the virus” and revive the economy.

“They are a reflection of our values,” Ms Tanden said of federal spending plans. “They touch our lives in profound ways. And, sometimes, they make all the difference.”

The daughter of an Indian-born mother, Ms Tanden said “I’m here today because of my mother’s grit” – but also because of “social programs.”

That comment will only further GOP criticism of the current Center for American Progress president, whom they say is out of the “mainstream” of Americans’ thinking about the size of the federal government and its spending – and the proper role it should play in the economy and on social matters. 

Republican senators like John Cornyn, a close ally of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, say Ms Tanden’s coming nomination for Office of Management and Budget director is doomed.

"I think in light of her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, that it creates, certainly, a problematic path,” he told reporters on Monday, objecting to Ms Tanden’s many tweets criticizing Republican senators, some of which she would need to support her during a floor vote.

Another top Senate Republican, Majority Whip John Thune said: “I’m not disqualifying anybody, but I do think it gets a lot harder obviously if they send someone from their progressive left that [is] kind of out of the mainstream.”

Monday was Neera Tanden day on an otherwise quiet one in Washington. Almost on cue, an email surfaced from 2015 when she criticized Mr Biden.  

“The good thing about a Biden run is that he would make Hillary look so much better,” Neera Tanden wrote to then-Clinton campaign manager John Podesta in October 2015. “What a mess today. Thanks for today and last night.”

That email, first reported by Fox News, was sent after Mr Biden said at an event that Ms Clinton should not consider it “naive” to work with Republicans.  “It is possible, it is necessary to end this notion that the enemy is the other party,” Mr Biden said at the “Mondale gala” then.

“End this notion that it is naïve to think we can speak well of the other party and cooperation,” he added. “What is naïve is to think it is remotely possible to govern this country unless we can. That is what is naïve.”

The president-elect seems to have gotten over the electronic slights.

It is common for US presidents-elect, and even sitting chiefs executive, to hire and nominate individuals and former rivals who have been critical of them and their policy proposals in the past – especially when they worked on other political campaigns. Donald Trump did just that over and over during his term.

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