Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told reporters Thursday that his panel wouldn’t take up the stalled nomination until after the weekend, when senators return home to their states.
“We’re not doing it today,” Peters said Thursday. “We’ve given our members a little more time to assess her qualifications and her nomination.”
Tanden’s nomination has been in trouble since last week, when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced his opposition, saying her “overtly partisan statements” against Republican senators and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaigns would “have a toxic and detrimental impact” on the relationship between Congress and OMB. In a 50-50 Senate, any Democratic defection needs to be replaced by a Republican vote and none so far has emerged.
Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has also not committed to voting for the nomination and sits on Peters’ committee. The panel abruptly scrapped its vote on Wednesday to give her more time to decide her position. Sinema has refused to comment multiple times on Wednesday and Thursday when approached in the Capitol. The Senate Budget Committee, led by Sanders, also canceled its vote yesterday.
The White House has privately begun considering alternative candidates but has publicly reiterated its support for Tanden. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that she “is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis.”
Psaki added that the White House is “fighting” on Tanden’s behalf and declined to characterize the committee vote postponements as a “setback.”
Tanden apologized and expressed regret over some of her tweets at her nomination hearings. At one, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman read aloud Tanden’s insults of Republican senators.
“Just to mention a few of the thousands of negative public statements, you wrote that Susan Collins is ‘the worst,’ that Tom Cotton is a fraud, that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” said Portman. “You called Leader McConnell ‘Moscow Mitch’ and Voldemort. And on and on. I wonder specifically how do you plan to mend fences and build relationships with members of Congress you have attacked through your public statements?”
White House chief of staff Ron Klain has said that if Tanden is not confirmed, she would be appointed to another position that doesn’t require Senate consideration.
“It seems that in this world we’ve kind of gotten numb to derogatory tweets,” said Murkowski on Wednesday. “I don’t think that that’s a model that we want to set for anybody whether it’s a nominee, whether it’s a president or whether it’s a senator. So I’d like us all to cool that.”
Tanden has served as CEO and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. She previously worked as a senior adviser at the US Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, focusing on the Affordable Care Act, and as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.