WASHINGTON—Two Senate committees postponed scheduled votes on Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget, raising further doubts that she can garner enough support to be confirmed by the chamber.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Budget Committee had been scheduled to vote Wednesday, but both panels delayed their votes as Democrats scrambled to save Ms. Tanden’s nomination, according to two people familiar with the matter.
To clear the full Senate, Ms. Tanden would need to win the support of at least one Republican after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced his intention to oppose her confirmation. The Senate is divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie.
As the news of the postponed votes emerged Wednesday morning, the White House defended Ms. Tanden amid criticism from some lawmakers over her past social-media posts.
“Neera Tanden is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter. “She also has important perspective and values, understanding firsthand the powerful difference policy can make in the lives of those going through hard times.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I., Vt.) the chairman of the Budget Committee, called Ms. Tanden late Tuesday night to tell her about the postponement, one person familiar with the conversation said.
Mr. Sanders and Ms. Tanden have had a fraught relationship. Ms. Tanden, a longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton who led the center-left think tank the Center for American Progress, has argued with some of Mr. Sanders’s supporters on Twitter and has at times criticized the senator. Mr. Sanders in 2019 criticized CAP and said Ms. Tanden “repeatedly calls for unity while simultaneously maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas.”
Mr. Sanders was not consulted on Ms. Tanden’s nomination before it was announced, the person familiar said. However, Mr. Sanders was expected to vote for Ms. Tanden’s nomination, according to two people familiar with his thinking.
A Homeland Security Committee aide said the panel postponed the vote because lawmakers needed more time to consider Ms. Tanden’s nomination. “The president deserves to have a team in place that he wants, and we’re going to work with our members to figure out the best path forward,” the aide said.
Wednesday’s hearings were expected to shed more light on the positions of key lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Ms. Sinema, a moderate who sits on the homeland security committee, hasn’t said how she will vote. Her office didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Grassley, who serves on the budget panel, said Tuesday he was still undecided on Ms. Tanden’s nomination.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another senator seen as a crucial vote, said Tuesday that she wanted to see how the committees voted on Ms. Tanden’s nomination before announcing where she stands. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) encouraged Republicans senators to stick together in opposition to Ms. Tanden during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, a person familiar with the remarks said.
Ms. Tanden has faced criticism from some lawmakers for her past statements on social media, which included jabs at senators. She compared Mr. McConnell to Voldemort, the Harry Potter villain; she referred to Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) as “the worst;” and asserted that “vampires have more heart” than Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).
At her confirmation hearings earlier this month, Ms. Tanden apologized for her comments and pledged to be nonpartisan if confirmed to the role by the Senate.
But some senators said her past remarks would make it difficult to build relationships in the Senate and aren’t in line with Mr. Biden’s message of unity. In addition to Mr. Manchin, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio and Ms. Collins have said they would vote against her.
Mr. Biden and his senior aides said they are standing behind Ms. Tanden and will work to ensure she has enough votes to clear the Senate.
“We still think there’s a shot, a good shot,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday.
Ms. Tanden’s supporters accused her critics of a double standard, noting that Republicans regularly ignored former President Donald Trump’s Twitter comments. Some Democrats have also accused opponents of Ms. Tanden of sexism since they supported at least one male nominee in the past who had behaved similarly on social media.
“For Republicans to look the other way with the nastiest of tweets by their president, their leader, for now to say Neera Tanden shouldn’t get in because of her tweets is a little bit of a contradiction,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, the Senate has confirmed 10 of Mr. Biden’s nominees, many with bipartisan support. Ms. Tanden’s nomination is the first to face major problems.
Republicans this week criticized two other of Mr. Biden’s personnel picks—Rep. Deb Haaland (D., N.M.), nominee for Interior secretary, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominee for Health and Human Services secretary. Unlike in Ms. Tanden’s case, no Democrats have announced opposition to Ms. Haaland and Mr. Becerra’s nominations.
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