WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, apologized on Tuesday for past attacks on Republicans on social media, which have been a focus of opposition to her nomination from members of that party.
“I recognize the concern. I deeply regret and apologize for my language, and some of my past language,” Tanden said at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She is due to appear before the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.
The Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, serves as the gatekeeper for the $4 trillion federal budget.
When Biden picked Tanden, chief executive of the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank in Washington, Republicans pointed to her past strong comments on Twitter, such as referring to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch” and saying “vampires have more heart than (Senator) Ted Cruz.”
However, now that Democrats control the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie, Tanden can get the 51 votes needed to become the OMB’s director even if she wins no Republican support in the 100-member chamber.
Tanden told senators that part of her role at the think tank was to be “an impassioned advocate.”
“I understand, though, that the role of OMB director calls for bipartisan action, as well as nonpartisan adherence to fact and evidence,” she said, pledging to work with Republicans while leading the OMB.
Asked about news reports that she had deleted more than 1,000 tweets, Tanden acknowledged she had done so “because I regretted the tone.”
Her hearing lasted almost three hours, just before the Senate was to begin the second impeachment trial of Republican former President Donald Trump, who is accused of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Tanden addressed a wide range of issues, including economic competition and trade with China and her support for independent inspectors general at government agencies after years of those officials being dismissed by the Trump administration.
Before her stint at the Center for American Progress, Tanden, 50, helped create Democratic then-President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act healthcare plan, popularly known as Obamacare, which Republicans have tried repeatedly to repeal.
Tanden, who is Indian-American, would be the first woman of color to serve as director of the OMB.
She has been viewed as Biden’s most controversial nominee, attacked not just by Republicans but also criticized by some left-leaning Democrats for being insufficiently progressive.
Democrats scoffed at Republican concern about Tanden’s past tweets. They called such concern hypocritical in light of the party’s support for Trump, who was known for blasting those he saw as opponents – particularly women – as “nasty” or criminals who should be locked up.
Democrats praised Tanden as experienced and qualified.
Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat who is the committee’s chairman, noted that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 100 public health experts had sent letters supporting Tanden.
Introducing Tanden, Senator Amy Klobuchar called her “smart, organized and tenacious. Those are good qualities for this job.”
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Andrea Shalal, writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Heather Timmons, Richard Pullin and Jonathan Oatis)