To seasoned Washington observers, it’s been clear since last weekend that Neera Tanden’s nomination to be the head of the Office of Management and Budget is almost certainly doomed.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D) announcement last Saturday that he would not support Tanden for the role set off a series of announcements – mostly from Republicans thought to be on the fence – that they would oppose her nomination as well.
And the two Senate committees – led by Democrats – with oversight over Tanden’s confirmation postponed planned votes this week.
The writing is on the wall. Big time.
And yet President Joe Biden’s administration continues to insist that they are standing behind Tanden and that they see a path to her being confirmed.
“We’re continuing to fight for her confirmation,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday night, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said that “we’re fighting our guts out” to confirm Tanden.
What gives? A few theories:
1) They think they still have a path. If Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski votes for Tanden and no other Democrat opposes the nomination, then Tanden would make it across the finish line. Murkowski hasn’t announced how she will vote, but she sounds skeptical of Tanden.
2) Biden wants to keep fighting. Biden knows the Senate better than his advisers, and maybe better than anyone in Washington right now. If he wants to keep pushing, then the people who work for him will keep fighting. Period.
3) They want to make a point. Even if Biden and his team have concluded that Tanden is doomed, they may be continuing to defend her nomination to make a point to the Senate (and to the Democratic base) about how the President plans to deal with opposition to his broader agenda. And that point? That he won’t give up at the first (or even the 10th) sign of trouble.
The Point: Tanden is very, very unlikely to be confirmed as the next OMB director. But the resistance to pulling her nomination seems like a deliberate bit of message-sending in the early days of the Biden White House.