Biden budget nominee grilled from right and left at second hearing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, was skewered from both the right and left at a second confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

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Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders questioned Tanden closely about millions of dollars in donations to the Center for American Progress, where she is chief executive.

“CAP has received money from some of the most powerful special interests in our country,” said the liberal senator, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Tanden said those contributions would have “zero impact on my decision making.”

The Office of Management and Budget serves as gatekeeper for the $4 trillion federal budget.

The Budget Committee is the second of two to hold hearings on Tanden. She appeared before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee on Tuesday.

Tanden addressed a wide range of issues, including pledging to back an increase in the minimum wage and insisting U.S. economic growth will not return to pre-pandemic levels for years without additional fiscal stimulus.

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Republicans again focused on Tanden’s past harsh comments on social media, such as calling Republican leader Mitch McConnell “Moscow Mitch”.

“This is not the unifying pick that I was looking for,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Democrats pushed back. The hearing took place on the second day of former Republican President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, partly via inflammatory comments on Twitter.

“We’ve endured four years of the ultimate mean tweets,” Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow noted.

Sanders noted that Tanden, who backed his rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential race, has also clashed with the left. “There were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally,” he said.

Tanden said she recognized the harm her words had done: “I apologize to people on either the left or right who were hurt by what I’ve said,” she said.

Sanders did not say whether he would back Tanden.

She can be confirmed without Republicans, because Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie in the 100-member Senate, but only with unanimous support from the Democratic caucus.

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