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Key GOP swing vote undecided on whether to back Biden's imperiled budget pick

CNN logo CNN 3/2/2021 By Ted Barrett, Alex Rogers and Manu Raju, CNN
Neera Tanden standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress, a policy research and advocacy organization and has held senior advisory positions in Democratic politics since the Clinton administration. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images) © Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress, a policy research and advocacy organization and has held senior advisory positions in Democratic politics since the Clinton administration. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska had a sit-down meeting on Monday with Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, but has not decided yet if she will provide the crucial vote Tanden likely needs to be confirmed.

Murkowski told reporters she had "follow up questions" after the meeting on Capitol Hill, which she characterized as "a good conversation."

"Still doing my assessment," Murkowski added.

After her meeting with Tanden, Murkowski sat with Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan on the chamber floor and gave what appeared to be a debriefing to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team.

Tanden's nomination has been in trouble since Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced his opposition, saying her "overtly partisan statements" against Republican senators and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaigns would "have a toxic and detrimental impact" on the relationship between Congress and OMB. In a 50-50 Senate, any Democratic defection needs to be replaced by a Republican vote and none so far has emerged. Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has also not committed to voting for the OMB director nominee.

Murkowski has also expressed concerns about Tanden's social media history.


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"It seems that in this world we've kind of gotten numb to derogatory tweets," said Murkowski last week. "I don't think that that's a model that we want to set for anybody whether it's a nominee, whether it's a president or whether it's a senator. So I'd like us all to cool that."

Tanden apologized and expressed regret for some of her tweets at her confirmation hearings. At one, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman read aloud Tanden's insults of Republican senators.

"Just to mention a few of the thousands of negative public statements, you wrote that Susan Collins is 'the worst,' that Tom Cotton is a fraud, that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz," said Portman. "You called Leader McConnell 'Moscow Mitch' and Voldemort. And on and on. I wonder specifically how do you plan to mend fences and build relationships with members of Congress you have attacked through your public statements?"

The White House has privately begun considering alternative candidates but has publicly reiterated its support for Tanden. Press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that she "is a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis."

Psaki added that the White House is "fighting" on Tanden's behalf and declined to characterize the committee vote postponements as a "setback."

White House chief of staff Ron Klain has said that if Tanden is not confirmed, she would be appointed to another position that doesn't require Senate consideration.

Tanden has served as CEO and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. She previously worked as a senior adviser at the US Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, focusing on the Affordable Care Act, and as policy director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

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