Conservative pundit gives unlikely endorsement to Biden’s budget director nominee

‘Serious conservatives, responsible moderates, and hard-headed liberals should want a tough-minded OMB head,’ William Kristol says

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Monday 30 November 2020 21:16 GMT
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In yet another twist in an unprecedented year in US politics, a conservative opinion-shaper is endorsing a hardcore liberal to become Joe Biden’s chief budget official.

Mr Biden plans to nominate Neera Tanden, now president and CEO of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, to head the powerful Office of Management and Budget.

Ms Tanden is a Washington veteran who long has been a close ally of so-called “establishment” Democrats – especially former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But Republican senators and other conservatives are trying to paint her as too far left to even be confirmed by the upper chamber.

"Neera Tanden, who has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators' whose votes she'll need, stands zero chance of being confirmed,” Drew Brandewie, communications director for Texas Senator John Cornyn, tweeted.

A prolific tweeter, Ms Tanden has fired off a slew of posts slamming Republican lawmakers, potentially hamstringing her eventual confirmation. 

Because she is considered a moderate, left-of-center Democrat, she also could face criticism from Mr Biden’s left flank.

William Kristol, the conservative former editor of the right-leaning Weekly Standard, raised eyebrows on Monday when he endorsed Ms Tanden and called her qualified for the position.

“Serious conservatives, responsible moderates, and hard-headed liberals should want a tough-minded OMB head,” he tweeted. “OMB is where Cabinet secretaries' ill-considered projects go to die, where programs are evaluated, where trade-offs are made. Neera Tanden is the right person for the job.”

Mr Biden praised Ms Tanden and his other economic team nominees in a statement.

“As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever,” he said. “This team is comprised of respected and tested groundbreaking public servants who will help the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and address the structural inequities in our economy.”

It is OMB’s job to run an administration’s annual budget process, including reviewing individual agencies’ spending requests. The office routinely pushes back or outright tells even the most influential departments a certain program-specific proposal must be scrapped or revised.

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