(Bioreports)A Cabinet nominee not making it to the finish line is a story as old as Washington. In the past, nominees have been forced to withdraw because of things like hiring undocumented workers or a questionable business deal or an unwillingness to be as transparent about your past life as our modern politics demands.
But with Neera Tanden’s nomination by President Joe Biden to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget, we may be witnessing the first nominee derailed by Twitter.
On Friday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he wouldn’t support Tanden’s nomination because of her past tweets savaging a number of Manchin’s colleagues.
“I have carefully reviewed Neera Tanden’s public statements and tweets that were personally directed towards my colleagues on both sides of the aisle from Senator Sanders to Senator McConnell and others. I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” said Manchin. “For this reason, I cannot support her nomination.”
Manchin’s announcement imperiled Tanden’s nomination, as Democrats control only 50 seats in the Senate. With Manchin against her, Tanden now needs at least one Republican senator to back her nomination for her to make it. And early Monday morning, the Republican considered one of the most likely to back her said she would not — again because of Twitter.
“Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency. Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.
“In addition, Ms. Tanden’s decision to delete more than a thousand tweets in the days before her nomination was announced raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.”
While Tanden’s chances are significantly less good than they were even 72 hours ago, the White House is insisting that they will continue to push for her to be confirmed.
“Neera Tanden=accomplished policy expert, would be 1st Asian American woman to lead OMB, has lived experience having benefited from a number of federal programs as a kid, looking ahead to the committee votes this week and continuing to work toward her confirmation,” tweeted White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday morning after the Collins statement came out.
It remains to be seen how long the White House will stand behind her; if the likes of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Mitt Romney announce they won’t vote for her, she’s probably done, no matter what the White House does.
What’s fascinating about Tanden’s confirmation problems is that they are almost entirely due to her active and aggressive Twitter presence. She once referred to Collins as “the worst” and urged people to pay attention to the “enablers” of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — listing a handful of GOP senators she thought fit the bill. Tanden, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, also battled it out with liberals via Twitter. “Your attacks were not just made against Republicans,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said during her confirmation hearings. “There were vicious attacks against progressives, people who I have worked with — me personally.”
Tanden did her best to distance herself from her Twitter persona. “My language and my expressions on social media caused hurt to people, and I feel badly about that,” she said in her confirmation hearing. “And I really regret it and I recognize that it’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others. I would say social media does lead to too many personal comments and my approach will be radically different.”
(Side note: Tanden clearly understood how problematic her tweets were going to be for her. As KFile reported late last year, she began deleting thousands of tweets from her personal account soon after Biden won the election.)
There is, of course, hypocrisy here — particularly among Republicans, who spent the last four years saying they hadn’t seen whatever the latest wild attack was that had emerged from Donald Trump’s Twitter account or that it didn’t matter. That suddenly someone attacking them on Twitter is disqualifying for a job in a presidential administration is quite the double standard.
That said, if Tanden either withdraws or is rejected in a final floor vote, it will send a very clear message to those with ambitions to wind up in a presidential cabinet one day. That message? “Never tweet.”