Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opened his questioning of Office of Management and Budget Director nominee Neera Tanden on Wednesday by asking her to “reflect a little bit” on the well-telegraphed personal slights she levied across party lines while running the Center for American Progress.
“Your attacks were not just made against Republicans. They were vicious attacks made against progressives. People who I have worked with, me personally,” Sanders began during Tanden’s hearing before the Senate Budget Committee. “At a time when we need serious work on serious issues and not personal attacks on anybody, whether they’re on the left or right, can you reflect a little bit about some of your decisions and the personal statements that you have made in recent years?”
Speaking during the second of two confirmation hearings this week, Tanden apologized, picking up from a line of inquiry begun by Republicans the prior day. In front of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, Tanden expressed regret for her inflammatory social media conduct, including frequently taking to Twitter to bash prominent GOP officials.
“It’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others, and I look forward to taking that burden,” Tanden told Sanders during his first appearance as committee chairman. “I apologize to people on either the left or right who are hurt by what I’ve said.”
Drilling down further, Sanders asked Tanden to promise that she will take a “different approach” if confirmed to the OMB position under President Joe Biden, noting the county’s extreme partisanship. “Absolutely,” she said. “I would say, you know, social media does lead to too many personal comments and my approach will be radically different.”
The brief exchange clarified questions ahead of the hearing about how the two party figures at different ends of the spectrum would interact. Former Sanders advisers and staffers told The Daily Beast that Tanden’s constant antagonizing of the progressive movement, including Sanders himself, is still a sore spot for some supporters, but that they anticipated he would move on.
In one bizarre utterance, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), a conservative, appeared to do the opposite, telling Tanden that she “called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut.”
With online insults out of the way, Sanders quickly pivoted to a preferred topic: CAP’s ties to corporate money. He referenced a Washington Post report that listed a variety of sources that bankrolled the center-left think tank over which Tanden presided for many years, including Wal-Mart, JP Morgan Chase, Amazon, and Wells Fargo.
“How will your relationship with those very powerful special interests impact your decision making?” Sanders asked pointedly.
“It will have zero impact on my decision making,” Tanden assured the populist senator, referencing times when she “disagreed vigorously” with positions from some of her organization’s corporate backers. “It will be my role to ensure that I’m only serving the interests of the American people, the administration, and its agenda to address rising inequality and address the needs of working families.”
At other moments, Sanders looked for areas of commonality with Tanden. They agreed on aspects of the Biden administration’s pre-stated White House portfolio, including raising the minimum wage, which Sanders called “starvation wages” to $15 per hour, providing free college tuition for families earning below $125,000, giving individuals three months of paid medical and family leave, and addressing growing climate change and infrastructure concerns.
Tanden agreed to all of Sanders’ shared policy goals with Biden, who selected her to be OMB nominee last December.