Neera Tanden withdraws nomination as White House budget chief
In the first major setback to US President Joe Biden, Indian-American policy expert Neera Tanden has withdrawn her nomination as his top White House budget official after she faced strong opposition from both Democratic and Republican senators for her past controversial posts on social media.
Tanden, 50, had been facing a tough time for the confirmation of her nomination as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) over her past Twitter outbursts against several lawmakers, including those from her own Democratic Party.
Tanden, president of the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, would have led a key economic post that oversees the production of the President's proposed budget for his agenda if she had been confirmed.
The OMB is in charge of the budget-drafting process in the White House, as well as having a large role in the issuance of new regulations.
Biden on Tuesday accepted her withdrawal and indicated that Tanden might be brought in the administration in some other capacity.
Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden's nominees. Eleven of the 23 Cabinet nominees requiring Senate approval have been confirmed, most with strong bipartisan support.
"I have accepted Neera Tanden's request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget," Biden said in a statement.
But the President indicated that she will have a role to play in his administration.
"I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work," Biden said.
Earlier in a letter to Biden, Tanden said it has been an "honour of a lifetime to be considered for this role and for the faith placed in me. "I am writing to you to withdraw my nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget," she wrote.
"I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation. Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities," Tanden said in the letter.
"I am incredibly grateful for your leadership on behalf of the American people and for your agenda that will make such a transformative difference in people's lives," she wrote.
Tanden's nomination was in jeopardy because of hundreds of her tweets against several Republican and Democratic senators, who in turn vowed to vote against her during the Senate confirmation.
She reportedly deleted more than 1,000 tweets before her confirmation process started. Tanden had apologised to the senators during her confirmation hearings last month.
But her apology did not satisfy the angry senators.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah all said in recent weeks that they would oppose her confirmation, pointing to Tanden's past criticisms of lawmakers on social media.
Without Manchin's support, Tanden would have needed a Republican senator to vote in favour. Democrats hold a narrow majority in a 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes in the upper chamber of the US Congress.
Manchin, a key moderate swing vote in the Senate, said last month in a statement announcing his opposition that "her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget."
Tanden's withdrawal of her nomination leaves the Biden administration without a clear replacement. The apparent front-runner to replace Tanden was Shalanda Young, a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, who has been actively pushed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Other names being mentioned include Ann O'Leary, a former chief of staff for California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Gene Sperling, who served as a top economic adviser to both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to US media reports.