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Members of President Joe Biden’s team are reportedly seeking the help of Asian-American groups in a last-ditch effort to save his budget chief nominee, Neera Tanden, as the likelihood of her being confirmed by the Senate continues to shrink.
Politico reports that the groups are calling Senate offices, sending letters to them, and utilizing social media in order to advocate on behalf of Tanden. The groups are naming the opposition to Tanden as “structural racism” and “institutional racism.”
According to two people familiar with the conversations, the attempts by the groups have been actively encouraged by both the White House and the presidential transition staff, still in place to assist with Senate confirmations, along with the Democratic National Committee.
Gregg Orton, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said, “It is incredibly frustrating to watch because we are talking about individuals who are preeminently qualified, but also coming from communities that have been screaming at the top of their lungs to be visible and valued by this country.”
Tanden is the daughter of Indian immigrants, and a lot of the groups that are being enlisted to help secure her nomination had already been supporting her since late last year. But, according to Politico, “they — as well as prominent Indian Americans across the country — began to redouble their efforts Friday after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he would oppose her confirmation, putting it in peril.”
Last week, senators of both parties took issue with Tanden’s nomination, citing past offensive tweets. Democrats and interest groups, however, are reportedly making the claim that she is being unjustly targeted because of her race and gender.
The groups are focused on three senators who have yet to declare their intentions: Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of the Budget Committee; Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a moderate who sometimes breaks with her party; and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who sits on the Homeland Security Committee.
They are also reaching out to two long-shot senators, hoping to change their minds: Manchin and John Cornyn (R-Texas), who co-founded the Senate India Caucus, but this week called on Biden to withdraw Tanden’s nomination.
The Daily Wire reported Wednesday that the Biden administration plans to place Neera Tanden somewhere if she does not get through the confirmation process:
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Wednesday that the Biden administration has been “fighting our guts out” to get Neera Tanden confirmed as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and that she will be confirmed to the position — despite one Democratic senator already opposing her nomination, and despite the list of Republican senators who would consider voting to confirm Tanden shrinking smaller and smaller.
“Let me be clear: We’re going to get Neera Tanden confirmed. That’s what we’re working for, and she will prove her critics wrong as an outstanding budget director that works with people on both sides of the aisle. That’s what I think her record truly shows,” Klain told MSNBC host Joy Reid.
But Klain also said that if Tanden weren’t confirmed, she would be placed in position “that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.”
According to Politico, the White House referred any queries about these efforts of Asian Americans to the presidential transition team. One of the officials on the transition reportedly acknowledged the work, adding that it had been going on since December.