WASHINGTON – Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, apologized Tuesday for her Twitter feuds with Republicans and pledged her role as an “impassioned advocate” would change if confirmed as White House budget chief.
“Over the last few years, it’s been part of my role to be an impassioned advocate,” Tanden, who leads a left-leaning think tank, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in her first confirmation hearing. “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.”
Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, is considered one of Biden’s most contentious Cabinet picks despite her extensive experience in government. She’s caught heat for Twitter broadsides directed at Republicans over the last few years, particularly against senators who she’ll have to face during her confirmation.
Tanden did not specify which comments she was referring to but said she understood that the role of “OMB Director calls for bipartisan action, as well as nonpartisan adherence to facts and evidence.”
As OMB chief, Tanden will serve as one of the administration’s leading economic voices, helping Biden fulfill his campaign promises like improving the Affordable Care Act – which she helped craft under the Obama administration. If confirmed, she will make history as the first woman of color and first South Asian official to serve as budget chief.
Though she apologized, Republican senators continued to grill Tanden about some of her attacks on GOP senators as well as her decision to remove more than 1,000 tweets before she was nominated as OMB director.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the committee, read out tweets in which she referred to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, as “the worst” and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as “Voldemort,” referring to the Harry Potter villain. He pressed Tanden on how she planned to build relationships with members of Congress whom she has previously attacked.
Tanden said she recognized the last four years have been “pretty polarizing” and that she had to work to “earn the trust of senators across the board.”
“I deeply regret and apologize for my language and some of my past language,” she said.
Democrats have pointed out Republicans outraged by Tanden’s confrontational tweets have gone out of their way to sidestep Twitter attacks by former President Donald Trump.
Tanden confirmed media reports that she deleted more than 1,000 of her previous tweets over “many months,” saying she regretted some of the language she used.
“I appreciate people’s concerns about my tweets. I’ve regretted them. I deleted tweets because I regretted my tone,” she said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced Tanden as “smart, organized and tenacious,” qualities she said a budget director should possess. Klobuchar acknowledged that not everyone has agreed with the “solutions” Tanden has put forward, including herself, but said her devotion to her country is part of the reason she was selected by Biden.
In a nod to bipartisanship, Tanden kicked off the hearing by elbow bumping Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and briefly speaking with Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma after he arrived.
But the courtesies did not stop Lankford from pressing Tanden about her tweets over the last four years, which he described as “pretty hostile.” Lankford said her tweets surpassed the number sent by Trump.
Tanden again apologized for her language and said she understood it was incumbent on her to demonstrate how she can work with both Republicans and Democrats.
“That burden is on my shoulders and that is one that I plan to take on,” she said. “I will do my best to work with you on any issues where we can make progress. “
The veteran Democratic operative, who worked for former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, is set to face the Budget Committee tomorrow before facing a full Senate floor vote.