Biden withdraws Tanden's nomination to be White House budget chief

FILE PHOTO: Neera Tanden, director of the Office and Management and Budget (OMB) nominee for U.S. President Joe Biden, speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 9, 2021. Ting Shen/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden to be his budget director, in the first Capitol Hill rebuff of one of his nominees, after her selection ran into stiff opposition over tweets that upset lawmakers.

"I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget," Biden said in a short statement on Tuesday.

The decision to withdraw Tanden's nomination reflected the tenuous hold his Democrats have on the Senate.

With the Senate split 50-50, Vice President Kamala Harris could have cast a tie-breaking vote in Tanden's favor. But that was not an option after moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would not vote to approve the think tank director.

Manchin's defection had sent the White House - and Tanden - scrambling to find one Republican backer. But they ultimately came up empty-handed, even after a last-minute meeting with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski on Monday.

Her backers decried what they called a hypocritical and sexist push to punish Tanden for harsh tweets after four years of similar language used by former Republican President Donald Trump.

Biden said he planned to have Tanden serve in his administration in some capacity.

Tanden, 50, an Indian American, would have been the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget, which manages the $4 trillion federal budget.

She served in the administrations of former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and currently runs the liberal Center for American Progress.

In a letter to the president released by the White House, Tanden acknowledged her nomination had become more than an uphill climb.

"Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities," Tanden said.

Tanden apologized for harsh tweets about Republicans during her confirmation hearings, but ultimately was unable to convince senators she could lead the OMB.

Tanden has made critical comments on Twitter about Republicans and Democrats, and in 2016 about Manchin's daughter, then the chief executive of pharmaceutical firm Mylan, after the company raised prices for its anti-allergy EpiPen.

(Reporting by Eric Beech, Nandita Bose and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)

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