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Tanden Withdraws As Nominee For Office Of Management And Budget

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Biden won't be getting the budget director he wanted. Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination. Her path to confirmation was looking difficult because of some things she'd posted on social media in which she was very critical of both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats have slim control of the Senate. But Biden could not keep his caucus together on this one. NPR's Franco Ordoñez is following this story. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: What happened last night?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, the Biden administration had been making the rounds on Capitol Hill. They were trying to sell a couple of Republican senators on Tanden's nomination. But several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had made it clear that they wouldn't support her. And that included Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, you know, also said that Tanden lacked the experience and temperament to lead the agency. So last night, Neera Tanden wrote a letter to President Biden saying it was clear that she didn't have a path forward and that she didn't want the process to distract from Biden's priorities. Biden accepted. And in his own statement, he said he looks forward to having her serve in some capacity. But it's not yet clear what that may be.

KING: Let's dig in on temperament a little bit. During the Trump administration, so many leading political officials said hideous things on Twitter, including, of course, the president himself. It was, like, constant. Why did this come down to Neera Tanden?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. That's right. You know, she was seen as a party warrior for the Democrats. As head of the Center for American Progress, she sent tweets that some lawmakers saw as very polarizing. She called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Voldemort, you know, the Harry Potter villain. She described Senator Collins as the worst and said that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas. It wasn't just Republicans that she aimed at. She was also critical of Senator Bernie Sanders. Now, during her confirmation hearing, Tanden said she regretted that language. But Biden did face a lot of pressure here. You know, there have been questions of a double standard. But Biden did promise a new tone in Washington, a more civil tone.

KING: OK. New tone, new time, but what does all this mean for Biden's efforts to work with Congress?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. You know, the Senate is split. And this is the first sign of how difficult it will be for him to push his legislative priorities. It is a very slim majority that Democrats have in Congress. Now, that said, not everyone agrees. I did speak with Jim Manley. He's a longtime aide to former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He doesn't think that this will have a lasting impact.

JIM MANLEY: There's a part of me that thinks that this is merely part of the usual give and take, where someone somewhere has to be sacrificed to the political gods for the greater good. Unfortunately, that person was Neera. The only reason why it happened was because someone wanted to score some bipartisan points by trying to - seen as being tough on a Democratic nominee.

ORDOÑEZ: Bottom line for him is that this is not going to delay Biden's most important priorities, like passing COVID relief.

KING: Who else might Biden choose to be budget director?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, a congressional source and a source familiar with the deliberations tell me there are several candidates being considered. One is John Jones, a veteran Democratic aide with deep ties to the Congressional Black Caucus. He was considered for the job before. There's also been a lot of attention recently on Shalanda Young. She is Biden's nominee for the deputy OMB job. She had her first Senate confirmation hearing for the job on Tuesday. Another is Jared Bernstein, a longtime adviser to Biden and who is also right now on Biden's Council of Economic Advisers. And there are some others. This is a really key position. And we'll - I expect we'll hear more about how the president plans to proceed very soon.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thanks, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.