Joe Biden’s nominee for a key economic post has deleted more than a thousand of her own tweets, some of which were critical of senators who now hold her fate in their hands.
The Daily Beast first reported the steps by Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank who Biden has nominated to lead the federal Office of Management and Budget.
“Can people on here please focus their ire on [Senate majority leader Mitch] McConnell and the GOP senators who are up [for re-election] this cycle who enable him,” Tanden wrote in June 2019, in a tweet recovered by the Beast.
Tanden named those “enablers” as Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst, John Cornyn, David Perdue, Thom Tillis “and many more”.
A tweet calling McConnell “#MoscowMitch”, a common nickname for the majority leader among liberals during the investigation of Donald Trump’s links to Russia, was also among those deleted.
Tanden’s fate may hinge on two runoff elections in Georgia in January. If Democrats win both seats – one held by Perdue – they will control the Senate via Kamala Harris’s casting vote as vice-president. That would make Tanden’s confirmation achievable – if party discipline held.
But Tanden, a former policy aide to Hillary Clinton, has also been a fierce critic of senators from the Democratic side of the aisle, for example the progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.
“It’s an odd choice for Biden and his ‘healing’ presidency to bring someone in who is so combative, especially on Twitter, being that we just ended a four-year Twitter presidency,” Josh Fox, a climate activist and Sanders surrogate, told the Beast. “She causes ire unnecessarily.”
It’s a disqualification for someone to serve in the cabinet that engaged in her own opinion on Twitter? That’s dumb
Fox also said CAP “pretends to be aligned with progressive values, but Neera Tanden seems so cynical that she attacks progressive policies like a ban on fracking, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All”.
The Massachusetts progressive Elizabeth Warren is among prominent Democratic senators who have backed Tanden.
Republicans have been quick to tell reporters Tanden will not be confirmed if their party can help it. On Monday, Cornyn, from Texas, told reporters he thought Tanden was Biden’s “worst nominee so far”.
“Her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, [create] certainly, a problematic path,” he said.
The Beast said Tanden had deleted at least one tweet in support of MJ Hegar, the Democrat Cornyn beat for re-election last month.
Speaking on MSNBC, Claire McCaskill, a former Democratic senator from Missouri, accused Republicans of displaying “a whole new level of hypocrisy”.
“The Republican senators are now all of a sudden worried about tweets that hurt their feelings,” she said. “This is just ridiculous.
“We’ve had a president who has used his Twitter account like a battering ram, going after not just his political opponents but Republican senators, unfairly, with incredibly brutal tweets. Now all of a sudden it’s a disqualification for someone to serve in the cabinet that engaged in her own opinion on Twitter? I think that’s dumb.”
In a statement emailed to the Guardian, a transition spokesperson said Biden would “choose the most-qualified, most experienced candidates capable of leading on day one” and “looks forward to working in good faith with both parties in Congress to install qualified, experienced leaders.
“The president-elect has been heartened to see a number of Republican senators express their desire to work together and indicate that they believe that presidents deserve latitude in building their team.”
Jen Psaki, Biden’s incoming White House press secretary, said Tanden was “a brilliant policy expert and she knows how vital funding for [government] programs is. As a child, for a period her family relied on food stamps to eat, on Section 8 vouchers to pay the rent and on the social safety. Her fresh perspective can help meet this moment.”
Tanden did not comment on the Daily Beast report. She tweeted: “After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by. Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure, and ensure families like mine can live with dignity. I am beyond honored.”
She has also changed her Twitter biography. It now reads: “Director of OMB nominee, liberal, Indian American, feminist, mom, wife. Not in that order. Views expressed are most definitely my own.”