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Biden's pick for budget director faces frustrating opposition

It's difficult to get over the impression that Neera Tanden is being held to an unfair standard.
Image: Senate Budget Committee Examines OMB Director Nominee Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget, testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on Feb. 10, 2021.Anna Moneymaker / Pool via Getty Images

Nearly all of President Joe Biden's nominees pending on Capitol Hill are likely to be confirmed, with one notable exception.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Friday he will oppose Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget, imperiling the prospects of a high-profile nominee of President Joe Biden.

The conservative Democrat explained in a written statement that he'd "carefully reviewed" Neera Tanden's tweets, and he's not comfortable with her "overtly partisan statements," which he added would have "a toxic and detrimental impact" on her work with Congress.

This morning, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also announced her opposition to Tanden's nomination, denouncing her "temperament."

It's a difficult political dynamic to defend.

Jeff Sessions had a lengthy record of, among other things, making overtly partisan statements and having a suspect temperament. Manchin and Collins voted for his attorney general nomination anyway. Bill Barr had a similar record, and the "centrist" senators voted to confirm him, too.

There was no shortage of questions about Mike Pompeo's partisanship and political temperament, but he also picked up "yes" votes from Manchin and Collins. When Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination was pending, he was unusually aggressive in his partisan posture -- only to be confirmed with support from Manchin and Collins, anyway.

The senators' allies might suggest those other nominees were different, because they didn't publish intemperate tweets the way Tanden did. Putting aside the fact that this is a strange standard, it raises a related question: what about Richard Grenell?

As Robert Mackey explained a few years ago, Grenell "was forced to delete hundreds of sexist, rude comments from his Twitter feed in 2012." The report added:

In addition to mocking the physical appearance of female political figures, Grenell has frequently used his Twitter account to harass journalists, relentlessly accusing them of partisanship for any reporting that challenges the far-right ideas he promotes. Rather than engage in dialogue, Grenell uses the platform to badger reporters whose work he dislikes to the point where many eventually tire of his inane arguments and block him.

Despite (or perhaps because of?) his obnoxious behavior on Twitter, Donald Trump nominated Ric Grenell for a diplomatic post. Care to guess which "moderate" senators voted to confirm him? If you said Manchin and Collins, you're correct.

Tanden, meanwhile, is apparently being held to a different standard.

Senate Democratic leaders are still looking for the votes needed to confirm her, but in a 50-50 Senate, her odds of success are falling.

Postscript: The New York Times' Jonathan Martin raised an interesting point the other day, noting that Manchin opposing Tanden's nomination may well be "his prelude" to supporting the Democrats' COVID relief package. The two would "show his independence back home," balking with his party on one thing, siding with his party on another.