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White House resists Shalanda Young as OMB nominee as congressional pressure grows

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 3/8/2021 Naomi Lim
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The White House is facing pressure to pick a Capitol Hill favorite to lead the Office of Management and Budget after Neera Tanden's candidacy tanked, but what appears like a "total slam dunk" nominee poses optical problems for President Biden.

Shalanda Young is Biden's pick to be deputy OMB director, yet her stock has soared for the agency's top job after Tanden withdrew her controversial candidacy. Young even received a glowing recommendation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn in a rare joint statement from the lower chamber's top three Democrats.

But the public campaign in favor of Young puts the president in an awkward position as he assembles his initial Cabinet and tries to maintain relationships in Congress.

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The issue has been exacerbated by Young's Republican endorsements, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Shelby of Alabama, said Virginia Tech political science professor Karen Hult. Biden has to build Republican support for his next legislative agenda items after forging ahead without it for his $1.9 trillion spending package he says is needed due to the pandemic.

The delay in naming Tanden's replacement should not hinder the OMB since Young, once confirmed, would act temporarily as its director, according to Hult. That gives Biden more time to deliberate amid a process complicated by his own commitment to diversity. That consideration has affected other rumored candidates, Gene Sperling and Ann O'Leary, both of whom are white.

"The White House likely is taking some time this time around to get input from key senators like Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders," Hult said of the socialist who leads the most liberal congressional faction. Sources close to Sanders claim Biden did not consult the Vermont senator regarding Tanden even though she and the chairman clashed in 2016 while she was leading the Center for American Progress and advising Hillary Clinton, Sanders's 2016 Democratic presidential primary foe.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, has sought to cool speculation Young is a shoo-in to be elevated to the top budget post.

"The president thinks so highly of her, he nominated her to be the deputy director of OMB, which is a very senior and significant job and role in the administration," Psaki said last week. "I will reserve his space for him making his own decision about who is going to lead the budget department. We certainly know there's lots of support on Capitol Hill."

Young most recently served as the House Appropriations Committee's staff director and clerk, a culmination of more than 14 years with the panel. And as staff director, she helped manage $1.4 trillion in annual federal spending.

Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn touted Young's intellect, federal budget expertise, and "determination to ensure that our budget reflects our values as a nation" last week in an open letter.

"Her leadership at the OMB would be historic and would send a strong message that this administration is eager to work in close coordination with Members of Congress to craft budgets that meet the challenges of our time and can secure broad, bipartisan support," they wrote. Young, like Tanden, would be the first minority woman to be budget chief.

During Young's Senate Budget Committee hearing last week, Graham suggested he could back her for both positions before Tanden withdrew her name from contention.

“Everybody who deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say. You might talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it,” he said.

One of Young's weaknesses could be her lack of executive branch experience, according to Bowdoin College government professor Andrew Rudalevige. Looking at directors' immediate backgrounds since the Bureau of the Budget became the OMB in 1970, Rudalevige found almost all had been in the executive or in the private sector, or both.

"A few had worked on the Hill, some were members of Congress, of course, and one came from running the Congressional Budget Office. But none came to the directorship directly from a congressional staff role," he said. "It’s possible presidents see OMB as too centrally 'executive' to be turned over to someone whose vantage has been uniformly legislative — at least immediately."

For Democratic strategist Stefan Hankin, the overt campaigning contributed to an already politically delicate situation for Biden, similar to the public jockeying that occurred in the race to become his running mate.

"You're not supposed to act like you want it, but you kind of have to let it be known that you want it," Hankin said. "But then, at the same time, you don't want to be viewed as just kowtowing to pressure, so it's this ridiculous dance that 98% of people don't care about."

Most Cabinet posts were heavily managerial as opposed to policy driven, Hankin continued, agreeing to an extent with Rudalevige. Young "checks the box" and would be "a really great choice that seems like a total slam dunk," he countered.

To political analyst Paul Henderson, a former colleague of Vice President Kamala Harris's in San Francisco, it was important to note Young hadn't been lobbying for herself, unlike, for example, Georgia 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. That being said, Henderson cautioned against caricaturing Young as "an ambitious black woman," an attack deployed against Harris.

"Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, even after her nomination as vice president, Harris was consistently derided for being 'too ambitious' to be vice president," he said.

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Tanden's nomination was derailed by Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin when he announced he would not endorse her due to her hyperpartisanship while at the CAP and as a Clinton aide, especially her pointed use of social media against Republicans and Democrats. With other complaints concerning Tanden's leadership style and corporate ties, the White House was unable to find a Republican vote to substitute for Manchin's in the evenly divided Senate.

Tags: News, Biden, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, White House, OMB, Neera Tanden

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: White House resists Shalanda Young as OMB nominee as congressional pressure grows

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