Feb 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden's OMB Plan B

OMB Director-designate Neera Tanden is seen during her confirmation hearing.

Neera Tanden. Photo: Leigh Vogel-Pool/Getty Images

House Democratic leaders are quietly mounting a campaign for Shalanda Young, a longtime congressional aide, to replace Neera Tanden as nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The nascent campaign for Young, who would be OMB's first Black female leader, reflects a stark reality taking hold in the Democratic Party: Tanden's prospects are rapidly fading.

  • Young is a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee.
  • “Ms. Young is a proven budget expert and is well qualified for the job,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Driving the news: Tanden’s candidacy suffered a further setback Monday when Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah announced their opposition.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another potential Republican yes vote, has also signaled to supporters she’s unlikely to back Tanden.
  • In the 50-50 Senate, Tanden would need at least one Republican to support her nomination after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced Friday he would oppose her candidacy.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki publicly stood by Tanden on Monday. “She has a record of working with members of both parties, views from both parties and we have no doubt she’d do that as budget director,” Psaki told reporters.

The intrigue: Young, who is currently waiting for a confirmation hearing in the Senate to be deputy OMB director, may still face competition from Gene Sperling, who has the distinction of twice leading the National Economic Council.

  • Sperling — along with Bruce Reed, now the White House deputy chief of staff — was considered to lead OMB during the transition. Both were passed over in favor of Tanden, who would be the first woman of color to hold the post.
  • While Sperling has many allies inside the White House, the push for diversity — and the desire to rack up "firsts" — is still important to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Among Biden’s top economic advisers and nominees, six are women and four of them are women of color.
  • Progressives, nonetheless, are mounting a public campaign for Sperling, with Dean Baker, the director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, vouching for his credentials.
  • “While I would not have wanted the Gene Sperling of 25 years ago to hold a top position in the Biden administration, I think the Gene Sperling of today would be an outstanding pick as head of OMB," Baker wrote in The American Prospect.

Go deeper: House Democratic leaders are prepared to push for Young, who also has support from some prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has had some success in convincing Biden to select at least one congressional aide for his Cabinet, including Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative.
  • “While I am hopeful for Ms. Tanden’s nomination, I cannot say enough good things about Ms. Young,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “She is widely respected by members on both sides of the aisle for her expertise."
Go deeper