‘She’s smart as hell’: Biden stands by OMB director nominee Neera Tanden amid outcry from conservatives and progressives

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Neera Tanden. Paul Morigi/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden in an interview with The New York Times published on Wednesday defended Neera Tanden, his nominee for director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, saying that Republicans opposed to her nomination were just trying “to pick a fight.”

When asked by Opinion columnist Thomas Friedman whether “nasty tweets should be disqualifying in this day and age,” Biden wasn’t fazed by GOP criticism of Tanden’s Twitter account, where she has been highly critical of President Donald Trump and Republican legislators over the years.

“That disqualifies almost every Republican senator and 90 per cent of the administration,” Biden responded. “But by the way, she’s smart as hell. Yeah, I think they’re going to pick a couple of people just to fight [over] no matter what.”

While Biden’s foreign policy team included seasoned veterans like Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and US Ambassador to the United Nations Ambassador nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield who are likely to attract bipartisan support, Tanden is expected to face a difficult Senate confirmation hearing.

Tanden, CEO of the Centre for American Progress, the liberal think tank, has been a fixture in Washington DC for years. She was a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, starting with her work in the White House during the presidency of Bill Clinton, and would be the first Indian-American woman to lead the White House budget office.

However, her nomination has attracted increased resistance from Republicans, along with progressive activists who were aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whom she opposed during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries.

In the past, Tanden has referred to GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as “Moscow Mitch,” a pejorative that many liberals used to link him to Trump and the Russia investigation. The tweet in question was recently deleted, according to the Guardian.

This week, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas described Tanden as “radioactive” and said that her nomination is “really a misstep by the administration.”

He added: “It’s pretty crazy to me to think that she can go back and … eliminate all the tweets that she’s sent out over the last, whatever, months, years.”

In preparation for the confirmation process, Tanden has already deleted over 1,000 tweets from her official account, according to The Daily Beast

The GOP currently controls the Senate 52-48. Democrats would need to win both of the January runoff elections in Georgia in order to create a 50-50 split and have Vice President-elect Kamala Harris break ties in favour of Biden’s nominees. Otherwise, Senate Republicans will control the nomination process.