Neera Tanden and Xavier Becerra come under fire as Biden nominees fight to survive confirmation battles


President Biden is behind a pair of cabinet picks facing uphill battles, including Neera Tanden, his nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Xavier Becerra, his pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as A growing number of senators have pledged to oppose his confirmations.

Tanden’s confirmation appears to be the most in jeopardy after several indefinite voting senators, including at least one Democrat, announced plans to vote against his confirmation. The former president of the liberal Center for American Progress was repeatedly criticized during her confirmation hearing, as Republicans pointed to hostile tweets she posted against various lawmakers, many of whom she deleted late last year.

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During that hearing, Senator Ron Portman, R-Ohio, gave examples of “some of the thousands of negative public statements” Tanden has made. These included her calling Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, “the worst” and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., A “fraud,” saying that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz” and referring to then- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Ky., as “Moscow Mitch” and “Voldemort”, in reference to the Harry Potter villain.

Portman said that even after Tanden deleted the tweets, there were still nine pages of posts about Cruz that were still posted.

“I wonder, specifically, how do you plan to fix the barriers and build relationships with the members of Congress that you have attacked through your public statements?” Portman asked.

President Biden stands alongside Xavier Becerra, Neera Tanden amid uphill confirmation battles (Getty Images)

“I acknowledge the concern,” Tanden replied. “I deeply regret and apologize for my language, part of my previous language. I recognize that this role is a bipartisan role, and I know that I have to earn the trust of senators across the board. I will work very aggressively to address that concern. . “

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Tanden said he hopes to work “in a bipartisan and non-partisan way,” while acknowledging that “it is up to me to show this to this committee and to the members.

But after the hearing, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.V., said he would oppose his nomination, citing his tweets and saying that his “openly partisan statements will have a toxic and damaging impact on the important working relationship between the members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. “

“For this reason, I cannot support his nomination,” Manchin said.

Manchin’s opposition meant that Tanden will need the support of the Republicans. But that effort to woo a Republican was hampered when Collins also said Monday he would vote against Tanden, dealing another blow to his confirmation.

“Congress must be able to trust that the OMB director will make countless decisions impartially, complying with the letter of the law and the intent of Congress,” Collins said in a statement Monday. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to run this critical agency.”

But the White House is still behind her, promising not to withdraw her nomination, although it is unclear how Tanden will gather enough votes.

“The president nominated her because he thought she would be stellar,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, highlighting her experience.

When asked if they still felt their confirmation was possible, Psaki said, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, another selection of Biden faces increased scrutiny, and Becerra gears up for his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday as Republicans have signaled plans to focus on trying to torpedo his nomination. But he could also run into trouble with Democrats: Manchin’s office says it has not decided whether it will support Becerra.

More than 100 conservatives sent a memorandum to Republican members of Congress describing their concerns with the Becerra nomination, calling him an “extremist” who would carry a liberal agenda if confirmed.

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“Becerra has not displayed the judgment, character or respect for human life necessary to lead the agency with such influence on the fundamental rights of all Americans,” they continued. “Under his supervision, we believe that HHS, an agency that should protect human life, dignity and enshrine the values ​​of religious freedom, would be used as a weapon for partisan and destructive purposes.”

They added: “For all these reasons, we urge the Senate to firmly reject his confirmation.”

Conservative groups have also objected to Becerra leading HHS amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying he has “no health care expertise” and instead that a doctor or public health expert should be there. in front of the department.

Biden’s transition spokesman, Andrew Bates, defended Becerra, saying he has “decades of experience in health care policy, worked with Republicans and Democrats to expand access to COVID treatments and take on opioid manufacturers, while leading the largest state justice department in the country. “

Bates added that Becerra also has a “strong history of fighting to reduce costs for patients.”

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“That is why President Biden chose this qualified and proven leader to be at the forefront of the pandemic response and help drive down drug prices,” Bates said. “We await your hearings and confirmation votes.”

And Psaki on Monday, during his briefing, said Becerra “helped play a role in passing the Affordable Care Act” and “brings decades of experience in health care policy.”

Psaki pointed to Becerra’s work as California attorney general and said he “fought alongside his Republican counterparts to expand access to COVID treatments.”

Despite conservative opposition, Biden’s transition team told Fox News that Becerra hopes to “work in good faith with members of both parties in Congress.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s choice for Attorney General Merrick Garland also appeared this week for his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Garland was pressured by hot topics, but committee lawmakers, including Republicans, indicated it would likely be confirmed.

Megan Henney, Brittany De Lea, and Paul Steinhauser of Fox News contributed to this report.

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