White House budget chief nominee apologizes for past tweets

Neera Tanden testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee on her nomination to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), during a hearing Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Leigh Vogel/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden’s choice to the lead the Office of Management and Budget apologized Tuesday for spending years attacking top Republicans on social media as she tried to convince senators she’ll leave partisan politics behind if confirmed.

Neera Tanden also admitted to spending “many months” removing past Twitter posts, saying, “I deleted tweets because I regretted them.” But she refused to say she did so to help her nomination.

“I know there have been some concerns about some of my past language on social media, and I regret that language and take responsibility for it,” Tanden, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and the president of the center-left Center for American Progress, told a Senate committee.

She later added, “I deeply regret and apologize for my language.”

Tanden would be the first woman of color to lead the OMB. Her nomination requires approval from the Senate, which has moved fairly quickly to pass many of Biden’s choices for powerful posts. That’s despite it being divided 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans and this week grappling with the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

Democrats hold the majority thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. None in the party have yet opposed Tanden, meaning she’s likely to ultimately be approved. But Republicans have signaled that the process may trigger a political battle unseen with other Biden nominees, given her history of criticism of GOP lawmakers she’d now have to work with.

Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman noted that, despite going back and trying “to cover what you said” by deleting tweets, copious “harsh” criticism” and “personal attacks about specific senators” endured. He said that included Tanden calling Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton “a fraud” and tweeting that “vampires have more heart” than Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said Tanden had tweeted more over the past four years than even Trump did.

“Something that this committee’s asked pretty frequently of nominees is, ‘Will you commit to working across the aisle?,'” Lankford said. “And that’s one that we have to ask you a little more blunt than others because it’s been pretty clear that hasn’t been your position in the past.”

Tanden said she recognizes “that this role is a bipartisan role, and I know I have to earn the trust of senators across the board.”

As the nation grapples with an economy racked by the coronavirus pandemic, Tanden promised that as budget chief she would “vigorously enforce my iron clad belief that our government should serve all Americans, regardless of party, in every corner of the country.”

Still, Senate discussion of Tanden’s nomination is likely to center more on her past tweets than her budget priorities. Cotton has said they were “filled with hate.” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn suggested previously that she’d face “certainly a problematic path” to nomination.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley offered another potential line of Republican criticism on Tuesday, noting that the Center for American Progress had collected large donations from Wall Street firms and groups associated with major tech firms while Tanden headed it.

“How can you ensure us that you’ll work to see that these Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms don’t exercise undo influence,” Hawley asked, “in the making of government policy and the control of our economy?”

Tanden replied that she’d called for higher taxes on tech companies and more regulation of Wall Street and major corporate interests because “we should be moving to rebalance power in our economy.”