US president Joe Biden has abandoned his plan for Neera Tanden to be White House budget director after pushback from key senators, marking the first cabinet defeat for the US president.
The nomination collapsed when centrists on both sides of the political aisle made clear they were not going to vote for Tanden thanks to several of her previous tweets in which she disparaged lawmakers, including some who would have been charged with voting on her confirmation.
“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.
“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.”
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, reports said.
The announcement came amid growing recognition that Tanden, who currently heads a progressive think tank, did not have enough support after one Democrat and multiple moderate Republicans in the evenly divided Senate said they would not vote for her.
“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, 50, wrote Biden in a letter withdrawing her nomination.
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, and 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.
Several other Biden picks have made it into their posts with bipartisan support, including secretary of state Antony Blinken, treasury secretary Janet Yellen and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.
Two more nominees were confirmed Tuesday (2): Council of Economic Advisors chair Cecilia Rouse, the first Black person to serve in the position, and commerce secretary Gina Raimondo.
The Tanden defeat highlights the extraordinary power that now rests in the hands of a single moderate Democrat, Senator Manchin.
With the chamber deadlocked at 50-50, Biden needs the entire Democratic caucus to hang together on nominations and critical pieces of legislation if they do not earn Republican support.
Later this week, the Senate is expected to vote on the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. No Republican has offered their support for the bill.
The front-runner to replace Tanden is 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 are Ann O’Leary, a former chief of staff for California governor Gavin Newsom, and Gene Sperling, who served as a top economic adviser to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to reports.