Key committee votes postponed in troubling sign for Tanden nomination

Senators want more time to consider the nomination, an official on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who is familiar with the matter tells CNN. A senior aide on the other panel, the Senate Budget Committee, told CNN its hearing also was postponed and that Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and who has clashed with Tanden in the past, personally informed Tanden on the phone Tuesday night about the committee’s plans to postpone the markup.

Tanden faces resistance from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist from West Virginia, and a wide array of Republicans who have said they will not back her because of her past partisan criticisms aimed at lawmakers in sharp attacks at odds with Biden’s pledges of civility and unity.

The White House — which, as CNN has previously reported, has begun looking at alternative candidates — publicly reiterated its support for Tanden’s nomination after the votes were postponed, and officials have expressed hope that if Tanden were to survive the committee votes, it would give them the leverage to convince a small group of senators who had yet reveal their positions to support her.

But the political reality is that the votes to push her through an evenly divided Senate do not appear to exist. Tanden stands a chance if she wins the support of moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, but it is far from clear that will happen.

If the nomination stalls out, it would be the first defeat of a high-profile Biden pick subject to Senate approval and would underscore the narrow margin of error Democrats must contend with in a Senate with a 50-50 partisan split.

Sinema sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and has so far refused to say how she will vote. One source told CNN the committee is specifically concerned with Sinema’s status and did not want to risk taking the vote on Tanden without knowing how she planned to vote. CNN has reached out to her office for comment.

Asked if he believes all Democrats on his panel will support the nominee, Sen. Gary Peters, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security committee, told CNN on Tuesday, “I haven’t talked to all of them but I believe we will.”

Murkowski has indicated she won’t make a decision until after the committee vote. “I’ve got time,” she said when asked when she would make her position known.

Sanders would not say Tuesday if he planned to support Tanden for the position. The Vermont senator was not consulted before Tanden was nominated to lead OMB and heard of her pick through news media reports, a source close to the process told CNN Wednesday.

The White House remained supportive of Tanden Wednesday morning, with press secretary Jen Psaki telling CNN after the vote was postponed that Tanden “is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis.”

Tanden apologized and expressed regret over her past tweets during Senate confirmation hearings earlier this month.

In a statement announcing his opposition to the nomination, Manchin said that Tanden’s comments on Twitter about Sanders and Republican colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had led him to doubt she was the right fit.

“I have carefully reviewed Neera Tanden’s public statements and tweets that were personally directed towards my colleagues on both sides of the aisle from Senator Sanders to Senator McConnell and others. I believe 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,” Manchin said in a statement. “For this reason, I cannot support her nomination.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had been viewed as a potential swing vote, similarly expressed opposition over Tanden’s rhetoric.

In a statement, Collins cited Tanden’s “past actions” and said the OMB nominee does not have the “experience nor the temperament” to lead the office.

“Congress has to be able to trust the OMB director to make countless decisions in an impartial manner, carrying out the letter of the law and congressional intent,” Collins said. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency. Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.”

Collins also said that Tanden’s deletion of tweets before her confirmation was announced “raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.”

GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Tuesday called on Biden to withdraw the nomination given the stiff resistance she faces.

“My friendly advice to President Biden is to withdraw Neera Tanden’s nomination and select someone who at the very least has not … openly bashed people on both sides of the aisle that she happens to disagree with,” he said.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Ryan Nobles, Jake Tapper, Lauren Fox and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.

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