Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, faced sharp questioning over her past comments critical of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle during a second Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday morning.
Senators on the Budget Committee pressed Tanden, who has most recently served as the CEO and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, to address what she has said previously about Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who ran unsuccessfully against Tanden’s ally Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and is now chair of the committee.
Sanders chided Tanden, saying that some of her remarks amounted to “vicious attacks” against progressives.
“Your attacks were not just made against Republicans. There were vicious attacks made against progressives. People who I have worked with, me personally,” Sanders said.
Tanden acknowledged that her statements on social media “caused hurt to people,” adding, “I apologize to people on either the left or right who are hurt by what I’ve said.”
Asked by Sanders whether she will take a different approach if confirmed to lead OMB, Tanden replied, “Absolutely. I would say social media does lead to too many personal comments, and my approach will be radically different.”
On Tuesday, when Tanden appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, she apologized for some of the criticism she has previously directed at congressional Republicans and expressed regret over past tweets.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the ranking member on the panel, on Wednesday called Tanden “a very partisan figure,” noting that she had previously referred to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch.” Graham also brought up past comments from Tanden about Sanders, saying, “Her scorn was not limited to Republicans.” One of the comments the South Carolina Republican referenced was a 2018 tweet from Tanden saying, “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal emails did to help Hillary.”
Tanden responded in her opening statement, saying, “I know there have been some concerns about some of my past language on social media. I regret that language and I also want to say I express that regret to Senator Sanders and other members of this committee.”
In another contentious exchange Wednesday, Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told Tanden he was “very disturbed” by the personal nature of her past comments, adding, “I mean, you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut,” in what his office later said was “a well-known cultural allusion to both ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘The Office.’ “
“That is not true, senator,” Tanden replied, and later said she regretted comments she has made.
Pressed repeatedly by Kennedy about whether she had meant what she said in her comments, Tanden finally said, “I must have meant them, but I really regret them.”
At the conclusion of their exchange, Kennedy noted, “I want the record to reflect that I did not call Senator Sanders an ignorant slut.”
Sanders replied with a laugh: “I don’t know how I should take that, Senator Kennedy.”