By Nadia Babar and Minahil Rafay

The Biden Administration Series is a series of short articles doing profiles on the politicians Biden is appointing to his Cabinet. Each article will discuss the person’s political history and the potential implications their addition to the administration could have on the public.

Neera Tanden

Photo from Vanity Fair

  • Party: Democratic
  • Education: University of California, Los Angeles (BA), Yale University (JD)
  • President of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington D.C.
  • Worked on several Democratic campaigns: Michael Dukakis (1988), Bill Clinton (1992), Barack Obama (2008), and Hillary Clinton (2016)
  • Helped draft the Affordable Care Act during the Obama Administration

Neera Tanden is perhaps Biden’s most controversial administration nominee yet, this time for the position of director for the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden isn’t known to be the most diplomatic of politicians, demonstrating a history of divisiveness, animosity, abrasiveness and perhaps even violence. Tanden is known as someone that loves to pick fights within the Democratic party, and now is definitely not the time for someone like that to take a position of power in the incoming administration.

The child of Indian immigrants, Tanden has been active in politics since the age of eighteen. She has worked on multiple Democratic campaigns, including those of Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, and Barack Obama in 2008. She also advised Hillary Clinton’s primary campaigns in 2008 and 2016, and is described as “Hillary Clinton’s biggest loyalist.” According to several Bernie Sanders supporters, Tanden is the reason Sanders didn’t win the Democratic primary in 2016. With a history of shutting down more progressive ideas, Tanden is a Democrat elite who should not make an appearance in the Biden administration.

Tanden’s career has been mired in controversy for less-than-admirable reasons. Despite spending a few years of her childhood benefitting from the welfare system, she wants to reform the beneficiary structure of social security and opposes a single-payer healthcare system. She also has a reputation as a ‘union buster’, meaning that she deliberately engages in activities thought to prevent the formation of unions, which generally result in fairer workers’ rights. Thanks to Wikileaks, we’re aware that Tanden adamantly opposed the notion of the $15/hour minimum wage, so strongly that the Clinton campaign in 2016 never outright endorsed the idea. (Competitive Enterprise Institute) The Democratic party has since then openly endorsed the $15/hour minimum wage so it is unclear how Tanden’s role in the Biden administration – should she be confirmed by a currently Republican Congress – will have an effect on whether this actually plays out or not. 

While Tanden has been endorsed by significant Democrats such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, she has recently been scrutinised for deleting over 1,000 Tweets from her Twitter account, where she was known to be a vocal critic of not just Republicans, but also progressive ideas such as Medicare For All and the Green New Deal. One of the now deleted Tweets was a snarky comment on Michelle Obama’s catchphrase ‘When they go low, we go high’, to which Tanden responded: “One important lesson is that when they go low, going high doesn’t f**king work.” (Fox News) Many have been quick to point out that this is an unnecessary criticism: we’ve just ended a four-year Twitter presidency, where Trump used the social media platform to spout everything from crucial announcement to pure nonsense. To use Tanden’s Twitter history against her is “a whole new level of hypocrisy” according to former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. (The Guardian)

Tanden would be the first woman of colour to lead the Office for Management and Budget, but it already looks like she’ll be facing a tough confirmation with the Republicans she has repeatedly antagonised over the years. However, the runoff election in Georgia on January 5th will determine whether or not the Republicans remain in control of the Senate. It’s also important to note that many Republicans were threatening to do all they could to block Biden’s Cabinet nominees before the announcement of Tanden’s nomination. 

But of course, Joe Biden knows all of this. The question that remains is: is this simply a move by the Biden transition team to help aid in the confirmation of other, more progressive nominees? By forcing the Republicans to block this nominee, whom they seem to harbor particular ire for, will they then be too distracted or depleted to block Biden’s other Cabinet picks? Or is this a Bi-partisan effort for the Republicans to be able to save face by blocking at least one nominee? According to Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell, Tanden is simply a “sacrifice to the confirmation gods” and stands no chance of being confirmed. 

But it appears that for once in their ardently corrupt lives, the Republicans are right to block Tanden. Of course, not for the same reasons that we think so. Tanden also appears to have a record of aggression – and not the good kind. According to the New York Times, Tanden punched Faiz Shakir – then-editor of ThinkProgress, later Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign manager – for asking Hillary Clinton about her Iraq War quote that was particularly unpopular with Democratic voters. Tanden was reportedly in line for a very high position in the White House had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election – we sincerely hope that Biden doesn’t revive that dream. Considering the circumstances, this nomination seems more like a simple political move than anything else, and it is in the best interests of the American people that it stays that way. 

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