On Monday, President-elect Joe Biden announced that Neera Tanden was his pick to be the next Office of Management and Budget director.
More than 18 hours prior, however, Republicans were already predicting that Tanden would never make it through the confirmation process.
“Neera Tanden, who has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators’ whose votes she’ll need, stands zero chance of being confirmed,” tweeted Drew Brandewie, communications director for Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), described the Tanden pick as a “sacrifice to the confirmation gods.”
“Neera Tanden is a big-government, big-spending radical liberal who’s a terrible choice for OMB Director,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) tweeted. “It’s just more proof that @JoeBiden and the Democrats will continue to move further and further to the Left.”
At issue for Republicans is Tanden’s role as the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal think tank. And specifically, her outspoken opposition to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018.
In the wake of Kavanaugh’s narrow confirmation to the nation’s highest court, Tanden said this: “Senate Republicans chose to give him the promotion of a lifetime and send a terrible message to sexual assault survivors. In his hearing, Kavanaugh repeatedly lied about matters big and small and revealed himself as an obviously unfit, dishonest, pure partisan.”
Of Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who cast the deciding vote in Kavanaugh’s favor, Tanden was even more critical. “Sen. Susan Collins stepped forward as the chief advocate for Judge Kavanaugh, offering a pathetical bad-faith argument as cover for President Trump’s vicious attacks on survivors of sexual assault,” said Tanden, adding: “Collins also revealed herself as a fake defender of Roe v. Wade, parroting ridiculous and debunked talking points.”
Which brings me to the Senate math — and why a unified GOP could well mean that Tanden never gets to run OMB.
At the moment, Republicans control 52 seats to Democrats’ 48. Control of the Senate won’t be decided until January 5, when GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler find themselves in runoff races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.
If Democrats manage to win both of those races — and they haven’t won a Senate race in Georgia since 2000 — the Senate would be split 50-50, giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the deciding vote and her party effective control of the chamber. And Tanden, under that scenario, would likely be confirmed to the OMB gig.
But if Democrats don’t sweep those runoffs, then Biden — and, by extension, Tanden — will need at least one Republican senator (and maybe two) to give her the 50 votes she needs to be confirmed. (That assumes every Democratic senator voted for her. Which seems likely — even though some liberals do not like Tanden.)
The two most obvious targets for any Democrat nominee looking to pick up GOP voters are Collins and her colleague — and close confidante — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Whoops!
While Collins could well decide to ignore Tanden’s past criticism of her when deciding on the confirmation, well, that is not going to happen. Because, after all, this is politics. Could Murkowski be the lone GOP vote Tanden needs? Sure! But the badmouthing of Collins certainly doesn’t help matters for Tanden when it comes to Murkowski.
Now, when we are talking about such small margins — needing a single GOP vote, potentially — there are always scenarios where Tanden could lose Collins and Murkowski and still get confirmed by some other Republican senator’s vote.
But, as CNN’s Zach Wolf noted earlier this month, recent history suggests that one of the President’s picks usually doesn’t make it. (At least one Cabinet pick by every president since Bill Clinton in 1992 has failed to be confirmed.) At the moment, Tanden looks to be the favorite for that ignominious honor.