- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2021

President Biden’s pick to lead the White House budget office apologized Tuesday for past criticism of Republicans on social media, which included likening Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to the villain Voldemort from the Harry Potter books.

Neera Tanden vowed that now she would take a nonpartisan approach to the influential job of director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“To the extent people are hurt by my language, I deeply apologize,” Ms. Tanden told senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the panel, said he was concerned that some of Ms. Tanden’s attacks on senators would make it more difficult for her to work with them.

He read some of her past words, including calling Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine “the worst,” Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas a “fraud,” and saying “that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz.”

Mr. Portman also said Ms. Tanden also called Mr. McConnell “Moscow Mitch” — a moniker liberals used after the Kentucky Republican stymied election security legislation prompted in part by Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

Asked whether she deleted posts from her Twitter account last year because of her anticipated nomination, Ms. Tanden said she deleted them because she regretted the comments.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration did not strong-arm Ms. Tanden into apologizing.

The director of OMB has a vast portfolio, overseeing the sprawling federal budget and executive branch regulations.

Mr. Biden previously praised Ms. Tanden as a brilliant policy wonk and dismissed GOP concerns about her “nasty tweets.”

Ms. Tanden served in the Clinton administration before she later became a key architect of Obamacare, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

She took the helm at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, in 2011.

If confirmed, she would be the first woman of color and South Asian American to lead OMB.

Her nomination appeared to be on the rocks after Mr. Biden announced her as the pick last year. Republican senators said they were wary of her explicitly partisan history.

The process was made much easier for Democrats after they swept two Senate runoffs in Georgia last month, giving the majority party the power to confirm Ms. Tanden without Republican support.

Republicans on the House Budget Committee said Tuesday that the Senate should reject Ms. Tanden’s nomination.

“Ms. Tanden does not appear to have the leadership qualities needed to represent such an important agency, and her divisive history will likely only further divide Americans, rather than unite,” they said in a letter to Senate leaders.

Among other complaints, the lawmakers cited an incident when she got physical with Faiz Shakir, Sen. Bernard Sanders’ 2020 campaign manager.

Mr. Shakir had tried to ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her vote for the Iraq War when he was the editor of ThinkProgress, a CAP-affiliated blog.

“I didn’t slug him, I pushed him,” Ms. Tanden said later, according to The New York Times.

Ms. Tanden was a vocal defender of Mrs. Clinton when she was squaring off against Mr. Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary contest. She is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Budget Committee, of which Mr. Sanders is chairman.

In Ms. Tanden’s opening remarks, she highlighted her family’s reliance on food stamps after her mother moved to America from India to raise two children.

“As I sit before this committee, I’m mindful that my path in life would never have been possible without budgetary choices that reflected our nation’s values — many of them made in the very agency I am now nominated to lead,” she said.

She said she knows OMB director is a different beast than her past roles.

Ms. Tanden has drawn fire from the left as well for her clashes with Mr. Sanders, who criticized her during the 2020 campaign after ThinkProgress published a piece about the socialist being a millionaire.

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