On Friday, Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) opposed Tanden’s nomination, citing his previous tweets attacking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Two key Senate Republicans followed suit.
Inside the White House, it did not go unnoticed that many of the lawmakers who opposed Tanden’s missives on social media, including Manchin, voted to confirm Richard Grenell, Trump’s acid-tongued advocate, for the post of ambassador. of the United States in Germany. Democrats on and off the hill also argued that Tanden, who is of South Asian descent, was one of several nominees of color who were treated differently than Trump-era nominees who launched personal attacks or expressed opinions. intolerant.
“We may disagree with his tweets, but in the past, the Trump nominees who confirmed and supported had much more serious issues and conflicts than something that was posted on Twitter,” Rep. Grace Meng (DN.Y.) said on an interview after tweeting out of frustration on Manchin’s indecision around some nominations. “It’s not just about a nominee like Neera, or whoever it is, it’s just about this pattern that is happening and that is increasingly difficult to ignore.”
A longtime figure in Democratic politics, Tanden became a huge figure online in recent years, directing direct, personal and often extensive criticism on Twitter of opponents on the left and right, including senators in functions. For that reason, his nomination to the OMB office carried obvious risks, even as the Democrats won control of the Senate.
His supporters now say his opponents are using his social media presence as a cover, pointing out that apologized, deleted, and appropriated his tweets. And Democrats argue that after the Trump years, there is little justification for someone’s online behavior to serve as a disqualifier. They point to not only the ex-president’s scathing presence on social media and the repeated attacks on lawmakers of color, but also the conduct of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court. confirmation hearing and confirmation of former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) as attorney general decades after losing a bid for a federal judge position for accusations of racism.
Kavanaugh “went crazy at the hearing on senators,” said Ilyse Hogue, outgoing chairman of the abortion rights group. NARAL Pro-Choice America. “They are saying that Neera cannot be confirmed by the tone of her tweets. It strikes me as very thin and certainly a different standard of how they expect women to speak compared to the men who voted to confirm. “
It is not just Tanden’s nomination that is raising complaints of sexism and racial prejudice. White House officials and those who served in the transition note that several of Biden’s nominees of color have seen their nominations slowly in the Senate or have already come under comparatively harsher criticism than white men running for office. senior management positions.
Republicans are currently lobbying hard on former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Biden’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, citing his views on expanding access to health care and abortion for non-immigrants. authorized. They also argue that Becerra, whose mother immigrated from Guadalajara and his father grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, is not qualified because he is not a doctor himself. Trump’s Secretary of Health, Alex Azar was not a doctor.
Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was confirmed in a majority party vote earlier this month. The first Latino and immigrant to fill his post, Mayorkas had previously been confirmed by the Senate three times. But his confirmation in this round was the smallest of all the margins for Biden nominees to date.
Home Secretary candidate Deb Haaland may soon face even greater opposition. Republicans have accused the would-be first Native American to lead the department of being “radical,” pointing to her support for progressive environmental policies and her opposition to new oil and gas drilling leases on federal land. Manchin, who is leading Haaland’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday, has said he remains undecided about his nomination and others, indecision that prompted a loud reprimand and a suggestion of bias from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (DN.Y.) .
Manchin’s office declined to comment. But in an interview earlier that day, she noted that she had spoken to Tanden on Monday and would still object to her.
“I like bipartisanship. I really am. I told him this is nothing personal,” Manchin said. “There is a time for bipartisanship to begin. We will see what happens on the other side.”
Derrick Johnson, president of the civil rights group NAACP, said that as the nominees get closer to their confirmation votes, “it will become apparent if those people who are women or people of color are getting a different level of scrutiny.”
“I hope we correct the course, quickly, and do not let that be a legacy of the Senate,” Johnson added.
Democrats fear even more nominees of color may soon be in trouble, including civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke, a candidate for assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and Vanita Gupta, Biden’s candidate for deputy attorney general. . Gupta was the subject of a recent publicity campaign by conservative groups, who accused her of wanting to “let convicts out of jail” and “reduce the punishment of white supremacists.” The other target of the groups was Becerra. A third ad they ran accused the Biden administration of welcoming dark money.
“Vanita Gupta wants to defund the police, and instead of grappling with that extremely dangerous position, her liberal advocates are making cartoonish claims to avoid trouble,” said Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, one of the groups that sponsors the advertisements. Gupta has not asked the police to withdraw the funds.
Janet Murguía, president and CEO of Latino advocacy organization UnidosUS, said she had a call with her team Monday morning in which the topic of Biden’s cabinet selections hitting roadblocks sparked a lengthy conversation. and a growing alarm.
“It has been incredibly disturbing to see an emerging pattern or trend where people of color and women appear to be at the bottom of the list in terms of audiences and completion of their confirmations,” Murguía said in an interview. “It is very offensive to see this step being taken when we have such an incredible need to put these different leaders in their place in these different agencies.”
“The stagnation of these nominations, regardless of which party, is not a good appearance and raises many questions as to why,” he added.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) raised the same question on Monday when she listed Tanden, Haaland and Becerra as nominees who “are coming under increased scrutiny.”
“There seems to be a pattern here,” Hirono said. He added that if Tanden’s nomination finally falls, Biden’s nominee to be the US trade representative, Katherine Tai, would be the “only Asian woman in the cabinet.”
“And nobody knows who [the] commercial representative is, ”he said.
Burgess Everett and Meridith McGraw contributed reporting.