Biden budget director asked to justify tweets calling Ted Cruz worse than a vampire in confirmation hearing

Ms Tanden says she was an 'impassioned advocate' in her previous role at a centre-left think tank

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 09 February 2021 18:19 GMT
Senator Rob Portman remind Neera Tanden of her tweets about Republican senators

Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget says she regrets past comments made on Twitter attacking Republican senators and the Trump administration.

At her Senate confirmation hearing, Neera Tanden pledged to be nonpartisan if confirmed to the role. Ms Tanden was previously head of the Centre for American Progress, a centre-left think tank.

When nominated by then president-elect Biden to take on the OMB role, her previous comments regarding Republican lawmakers were immediately flagged as a potential hurdle to her confirmation.

“I know there have been some concerns about some of my past language on social media, and I regret that language and take responsibility for it,” Ms Tanden said in her opening remarks at the hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

While Ms Tanden did not specify which comments she was referring to, Ohio senator Rob Portman, the leading Republican on the committee voiced his concern that personal attacks on specific senators may make it difficult for her to work with them.

He noted that in the past she has criticised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Susan Collins of Maine.

Mr Portman reminded Ms Tanden that she called Senator Collins “the worst”, said that Senator Cotton “is a fraud”, said that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz”, and called Senator McConnell “Moscow Mitch” and “Voldemort”.

He added that “there are still nine pages of tweets about Senator Cruz”.

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma noted that, more generally, she had called Republicans “criminally ignorant”, “corrupt”, and “the worst”.

Ms Tanden described herself as an “impassioned advocate” in her previous role, adding: “I understand, though, that the role of OMB Director calls for bipartisan action, as well as a nonpartisan adherence to facts and evidence.”

Referring specifically to the tweets, she said: “I’m sorry, and I’m sorry for any hurt that they’ve caused.”

Ms Tanden also has a contentious relationship with independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who once accused her of “maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas” in a letter to the Center for American Progress.

Despite past disagreements with Ms Tanden, Mr Sanders is expected to vote for her confirmation, meaning that even with full Republican opposition she should still be approved to lead the OMB.

Ms Tanden’s experience includes time as a senior adviser for health reform at the Health and Human Services Department under President Barack Obama, helping develop the Affordable Care Act.

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