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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

Updated Feb 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Collins, Romney to vote "no" on Biden budget nominee Neera Tanden

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced Monday they will not vote to confirm President Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden.

Why it matters: The moderate Republicans were viewed as possible saviors to Tanden's nomination, after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) became the first Democratic senator to oppose one of Biden's nominees last week. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has not yet announced how she intends to vote.

Feb 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Collins' likely "no" on Tanden a sign of Biden's peril

Photo Illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty, Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Close associates of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) tell Axios they're convinced she’ll vote against Neera Tanden to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget, eliminating a possible safety valve to save the nomination.

Why it matters: Tanden's uphill climb is emblematic of the challenges facing some of President Biden's remaining high-profile nominees. Interior Department pick Deb Haaland, Health and Human Services secretary-designate Xavier Becerra and Attorney General designee Merrick Garland risk varying outcomes.

Biden's pick for health secretary heads to the hot seat

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is more likely than not to be confirmed as the next secretary of Health and Human Services, especially now that another of President Biden's nominees is in hot water.

Yes, but: Becerra's confirmation hearings this week are likely to become political brawls over abortion, Medicare for All, California's pandemic response and Becerra's qualifications for the job.

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