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At Least I've Lived Long Enough to See Bernie Sandersas Chair of the Senate Budget Committee
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=11104"><span class="small">Charles Pierce, Esquire</span></a>   
Sunday, 14 February 2021 14:07

Pierce writes: "The day's most interesting congressional sideshow probably was the appearance before the Senate Budget Committee of Neera Tanden, the longtime progressive activist and Internet lightning rod and the new administration's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget."

Bernie Sanders.  (photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
Bernie Sanders. (photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

At Least I've Lived Long Enough to See Bernie Sandersas Chair of the Senate Budget Committee

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

14 February 21

He led a useful discussion with Joe Biden's nominee for OMB Director, Neera Tanden, when many senators wanted to talk about tweets.

he day’s most interesting congressional sideshow probably was the appearance before the Senate Budget Committee of Neera Tanden, the longtime progressive activist and Internet lightning rod and the new administration’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. This would have been the case no matter who the nominee was, since it also was the public debut of the Democratic-majority Senate Budget Committee under the leadership of new chairman…Bernie Sanders. At least I’ve lived long enough to see that.

Tanden, whom I know and whom I like, was heretofore known as a ferocious partisan activist and a longtime ally of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was policy director for HRC’s primary campaign, and that got her sideways with a lot of people who opposed HRC because she’d voted for the Iraq War. Nevertheless, Tanden joined Barack Obama’s campaign and later, his administration, the latter as an aide to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, which put Tanden in the middle of the bloody legislative brawl that culminated in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But it was in 2016, during HRC’s primary campaign against Sanders, that Tanden was turned into a cartoon bogeyperson by the Sanders forces, and she took the piss out of them in return and in kind. The whole matter always seemed to me to be the living definition of the old saw about academic politics: that they are so vicious because the stakes are so small, particular given the stakes in 2016, which only grew in retrospect over the ensuing four years.

So it was a fairly cool Washington moment when Tanden appeared before Chairman Sanders in her confirmation hearings on Wednesday. The senator got right to the point.

SANDERS: I have a letter in front of me from, I'm sure you have seen, a number of Republican members of the House concerned about some of the things you said as the head but, of course, your attacks were not just made against Republicans, there were vicious attacks made against progressives. People I have worked with, me personally. So as you come before this committee to assume a very important role in the United States government at a time when we need serious work on serious issues and not personal attacks on anybody, whether they're on the left or the right. Can you reflect a little bit about some of your decisions and the personal statements that you have made in recent years?

TANDEN: Yes, senator. I really appreciate that question. And I recognize that my language and my expressions on social media, you know, caused hurt to people and I feel badly about that. And I recognize it's really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others and I look forward to taking that burden and I apologize to people on either the left or right who are hurt by what I've said.

SANDERS: As you know, it's not a question of being hurt. We're all big boys, I don't see too many girls here, big boys who get attacked all the time. But it's important that we make the attacks expressing our differences on policy and that we don't need to make personal attacks no matter what view somebody may hold. Can we assume as the director of the OMB, we're going to see a different approach, if you are appointed than you have taken?

TANDEN: Absolutely. I would say social media does lead to too many personal comments and my will be radically different.

There were a few bad-faith dives for the fainting couch from the minority-party members of the committee; Lindsey Graham pronounced himself positively vaporous on the subject of Tanden’s having been mean to Sanders. Then there was Senator John (The Wrong) Kennedy, the Jubilation T. Cornpone of Magdalen College, Oxford, who decided to channel some neolithic Saturday Night Live.

KENNEDY: Okay, let me interrupt you. I have to go to another subject. I have to tell you I'm very disturbed about your personal comments about people. It's not just one or two. I think you deleted about 1,000 tweets. And it wasn't just about Republicans. And I don't mind disagreements and policy. I think that is great. I love the dialectic. But the comments were personal. I mean you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut…did you mean them when you said them?

TANDEN: I really feel badly about them, Senator.

Tanden is an unusual choice for a job virtually designed to be done by a bloodless pedant. But given that the administration seems to be spoiling for a fight with 40 years of oligarchical conservative economics, somebody who swings back from that chair probably is what’s called for. In fact, the most compelling exchange of the hearing came when Sanders asked Tanden about the corporate fundraising that she’d done when she was running the Center For American Progress.

SANDERS: Let me get to another issue that concerns me very much. I happen to believe that big money has an undue influence over the political and economic life of our country. That too often campaign contributions are what determines policy rather than the needs of ordinary Americans. According to the "Washington Post" since 2014, the Center for American Progress has received roughly $5.5 million from WalMart, a company that pays its workers starvation wages. $900,000 from the Bank of America, $550,000 from JPMorgan Chase, $550,000 from Amazon, $200,000 from Wells Fargo, $800,000 from Facebook and up to $1.4 million from Google. Some of the most powerful special interest in our country. How will your relationship with those very powerful, special interests impact your decision making if you are appointed to be the head of OMB?

TANDEN: Senator, I thank you for that question. It will have zero impact on my decision making. I'm actually capped in a number of positions that disagreed vigorously with the policy of those institutions and I appreciate this question and it is my role, it will be my role to ensure that I am only serving the interests of the American people, the administration and its agenda to address rising inequality and address the needs of working families.

This was the discussion worth having. Sanders then took Tanden through a litany of progressive issues, from a living wage to the climate crisis. And it took place almost entirely on grounds that would have been unthinkable back when Tanden was working for the Clintons. Times have changed, and Bernie Sanders is the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and make what you will of that. your social media marketing partner