The appointment of Neera Tanden, Joe Biden’s choice to head up the Office of Management and Budget, is being seen as a slap in the face by the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.
The former Hillary Clinton pit bull enraged the radicals during the 2016 campaign by denigrating their ideas and criticizing Sanders as a divisive candidate.
But it was during the 2020 campaign that Tanden made eternal enemies of the Sanders people. At the time, she headed up the very liberal but very establishment Center for American Progress and its publication, the blog Think Progress. Both entities actively worked against Sanders getting the nomination. And Tanden was front and center in opposing him.
There is a long backstory to the bitterness between Sanders’ orbit and Tanden: During the presidential primary campaign in 2019, Sanders penned a fiery letter to the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, which Tanden leads, accusing her of “maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas.”
Sanders also ripped into a video by ThinkProgress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which charged him with changing his rhetoric about millionaires after reaping royalties from a best-selling book. Tanden said then that ThinkProgress was “editorially independent” from both CAP and the Action Fund, an explanation that progressives saw as unpersuasive.
The topper was a confrontation between Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir and Tanden that ended up with Tanden either punching or pushing Shakir, depending on which side you believe.
“Around the same time, the New York Times reported that Tanden had years earlier punched Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ 2020 campaign manager, “in the chest” when he worked as ThinkProgress’ editor, citing an anonymous source. She disputed that characterization, saying she “didn’t slug him,” but pushed him. Before then, WikiLeaks emails revealed her calling ThinkProgress staffers “crazy leftists” and advising against supporting a $15 minimum wage, one of Sanders’ top policy priorities.”
Tanden has made enemies all around, largely because she has spent the last decade trashing Republicans in addition to radical Democrats. In fact, all that Democratic grumbling doesn’t mean that there won’t be more than a handful of Democrats who oppose Tanden’s nomination. Her real problems will come from Republicans who appear ready and able to quash the nomination before it even arrives at the Senate Budget Committee.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is president pro tempore and the most senior Republican in the chamber, told reporters on Monday that Tanden’s nomination “might be controversial” among his colleagues. He said he didn’t yet have a position on how he would vote on her nomination.
Josh Holmes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff and campaign manager, reacted to the news of Tanden being nominated and wrote on Twitter, “And there’s the sacrifice to the confirmation gods….”
Biden floating Tanden’s nomination may be a ploy to make his second choice for OMB more palatable. Bill Clinton’s domestic policy advisor Bruce Reed is what passes for a “deficit hawk” on the left but looks a lot better in the context of rejecting a Hillary Clinton partisan like Tanden.
Reed is in such a bad odor with the radicals that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signed a petition last week opposing Reed’s appointment. But other radicals think he’s better than the alternative.
“Neera Tanden is not a pick progressives would have chosen, but she’s better than Bruce Reed,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of the left-wing group Justice Democrats, in a statement. “Tanden’s on the record over the past several years pushing back against nonsensical worries about the deficit. Reed has been more of an ideological deficit hawk throughout his career.”
Yes, we can’t have anyone with “nonsensical worries” about trillion-dollar deficits in government.
Biden will most likely withdraw Tanden’s name from consideration. He’s got enough problems without picking a fight with the Sanders crowd right off the bat.