© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Senate panel holds hearing on Biden budget nominee Neera Tanden
By Susan Cornwell and Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Senate committees postponed meetings scheduled for Wednesday to consider President Joe Biden’s pick as budget director, Neera Tanden, suggesting she may not have the votes to be approved and thus become the first high-profile Biden nominee to be rejected.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee postponed a morning meeting where the nomination was going to be discussed. They provided no further information.
The Senate Budget Committee postponed an executive business meeting, during which the panel planned to consider Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget.
It has run into trouble after a moderate Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, said he would not vote for her, and two moderate Republicans seen as potential “yes” votes became “no’s” over her past comments on social media.
Republican Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney both cited concerns that Tanden, 50, would be too divisive to lead the agency responsible for managing the $4 trillion federal budget.
Tanden has made critical comments on Twitter about Republicans and Democrats, and in 2016 about Manchin’s daughter, the chief executive of Mylan (NASDAQ:), after the company raised prices for its anti-allergy EpiPen.
Tanden’s advocates have brushed off the concerns, noting that Republicans backed former President Donald Trump, who often used Twitter to harangue political opponents.
“For four years, I’ve heard senators walking around saying ‘I don’t read the tweets,'” Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, told reporters on the Hill on Wednesday. “Now, all of a sudden, tweets seem to be driving a particularly important appointment.”
With the Senate divided 50-50 between the Republican and Democratic caucuses, and Manchin’s refusal to back her, Tanden will need the support of at least one Republican to win confirmation in the Senate.
Biden, a Democrat, still supports Tanden, an Indian American who would be the first woman of color to lead the agency.
“Neera Tanden is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis,” his press secretary, Jen Psaki, wrote on Twitter.
Asked later Wednesday at the White House whether Tanden had offered to withdraw her nomination, Psaki said “That’s not the stage we’re in.”
“It’s a numbers game, it’s a matter of getting one Republican to support her nomination,” she said.
A congressional aide with the Homeland Security committee told Reuters the meeting was postponed “because members need more time to consider the nominee.”
Biden “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.
Tanden, who served in the administrations of Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, currently runs the liberal Center for American Progress think tank.
She apologized for her past comments during her two confirmation hearings, vowing to work with Republicans if confirmed to lead the OMB.
Senator Lisa Murkowski was seen as one of the last remaining moderate Republicans who might back Tanden. She told reporters at the Capitol late on Monday that she had not spoken to the White House about the nomination and had not made up her mind.