GOP, Dem senators confront Neera Tanden over ‘vicious’ personal attacks
Senators from both sides of the aisle confronted President Joe Biden‘s pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Neera Tanden, at a Wednesday Senate Budget Committee hearing over past statements and personal attacks she has made on social media. This is the second day of her confirmation hearings.
Notably, the committee’s chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at one point during the hearing brought up Tanden’s “vicious” personal attacks against Republicans and progressives. She herself once referred to the Vermont independent as “crazy.”
“I think most of us understand that it’s important that we debate the issues and try to minimize the level of personal and vicious attacks that seem to be so prevalent all over this country today,” Sanders said before noting that Republicans had sent him a letter expressing their concern about her past attacks.
“But of course your attacks were not just made against Republicans,” Sanders said. “There were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally. So as you come before this committee to assume a very important role in the United States government, at a time when we need serious work on serious issues and not personal attacks on anybody, whether they’re on the left or the right, can you reflect a little bit about some of the decisions and the personal statements that you have made in recent years?”
Tanden, who used to run the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank, replied that she now realized the hurt that her comments have caused and that she feels “badly” about it.
“And I really regret it and I recognize it’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others and I look forward to taking that burden and I apologize to people on either the left or right who were hurt by what I’ve said,” she added.
However, the Vermont senator said the point is not about whether people were hurt by her words, but rather the actual words.
“It’s not a question of being hurt, we’re all big boys,” Sanders said. “But it’s important that we make the attacks expressing our differences on policy, that we don’t need to make personal attacks no matter what views somebody may hold.”
One moment that also grabbed attention was when Republican Sen. John Kennedy (La.) accused Tanden of calling the Vermont independent “everything but an ignorant s—,” when talking about the cornucopia of tweets she had deleted.
Tanden interjected, saying: “That is not true, Senator.”
Cutting in for a second, ranking member Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) joked: “I wouldn’t have said ‘ignorant.’”
Kennedy then repeatedly pressed Tanden about if she meant what she said in her controversial tweets, but she wouldn’t directly answer his of “did you mean them,” saying “I feel badly about them” at one point during the exchange.
Graham during the hearing also confronted her about her previous statements, saying they make her a divisive nominee.
“Her scorn was not limited to Republicans,” the South Carolina Republican said, before reading aloud one of Tanden’s tweets that said: “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal e-mails did to help Hillary.”
“The point I’m trying to make here is that in a time of unity, we’re picking somebody with those sharp elbows, and there’s going to be a consequence for that, hopefully on our side,” Graham added.
Also during the hearing, Sanders brought up concerns about major corporate donations Tanden solicited while serving as the head of CAP, such as from large tech companies and banks. Tanden vowed that those relationships would not affect her decision-making if confirmed as director of the OMB.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.