Senate committees postpone votes on Indian-American cabinet nominee

Two Senate committees unexpectedly postponed on Wednesday preliminary votes on confirming Neera Tanden, the embattled Indian-American nominee for a cabinet position, as the powerful director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

With the votes uncertain for her confirmation by the full Senate after a key Democratic Party Senator Joe Manchin opposed her, the Homeland Security and Budget Committees delayed the preliminary votes on approving her nomination that were scheduled for Wednesday.

Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who heads the Homeland Security Committee, said the delay was because “people needed a little more time to assess it.”

Cabinet members and other senior officials have to be confirmed by the Senate and before that committees dealing with the areas of the nominees would have to give their approval.

He said that discussions were continuing on her nomination.

While there were media reports speculating that the postponement was a prelude to withdrawing her nomination, President Joe Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki said he stood by her.

At her daily briefing, she downplayed the postponement saying that efforts were underway to get Senate support for her.

If Tanden manages to get through the Senate and is confirmed, she would be the second Indian-American to be a member of the US cabinet.

The director of the OMB arguably holds the most powerful cabinet post as the official framing of the $5 trillion US budget that determines the allocations for the various departments and vetting policy and appointments.

In the 100-member Senate that is evenly divided between the Democrats and Republican, Manchin refusing to back her tilts the balance away from the Biden nominee.

The administration is trying to get at least one Republican to support her, but so far four of the seven considered likely to vote with the Democrats have said that they would not support her.

Tanden has a history of intemperate Twitter attacks on politicians of all parties, which was cited by Manchin and the Republicans as the reason for opposing her.

She deleted about 1,000 tweets and has apologised for them.

One of those she attacked, Senator Bernie Sanders, is the chair of the Budget Committee.

He ran unsuccessfully against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Tanden was Clinton’s campaign adviser.

Democrats have accused the Republicans of following double standards because they have stood by Trump who fired a steady stream of virulent tweets against his adversaries.