By Arul Louis
New York, May 15 (IANS) Neera Tanden, whose appointment to a cabinet post was blocked in the Senate, has been named a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, according to a Democratic Party leader.
While the White House has not publicly announced the appointment, a semi-official confirmation came from senior party leader John Podesta who said in a statement on Friday, “Neera’s intellect, tenacity, and political savvy will be an asset to the Biden administration as she assumes a new role as Senior Advisor to the President.”
Tanden withdrew herself from consideration for the cabinet-level post of the director of the Office of Management and Budget in March after senators from both parties opposed her nomination because of her insulting tweets about Democratic and Republican leaders and her volatile nature.
Unlike cabinet appointments and senior government jobs, the position of a presidential adviser does not require senate approval.
Had she been approved by the senate, she would have been the second Indian American to serve on the US cabinet. The first was Nikki Haley, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump as the US permanent representative to the United Nations with a cabinet rank.
OMB Director is a powerful post with oversight of budget allocations and personnel matters for all departments.
Politico reported that Tanden will be in charge of the review of the US Digital Service, which deals with ensuring that government information technology is easily accessible and secure, a job that assumes importance because of the recent government and corporate security breaches and ransomware attacks on the infrastructure.
She will also be responsible for Obamacare, the universal health insurance programme introduced by Obama that is being challenged before a conservative-dominated Supreme Court.
Podesta, who has been a counsellor to former President Barack Obama and worked with Biden, is the founder of the Centre for American Progress, a think tank, where Tanden was the president.
He said, “Neera’s intellect, tenacity, and political savvy will be an asset to the Biden administration as she assumes a new role as senior adviser to the President.”
When Biden withdrew her nomination, he promised her another position, saying, “I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”
Tanden was close to Hillary Clinton, who ran unsuccessfully against Donald Trump for president in 2016, and often launched personal attacks on those like Senator Bernie Sanders, a rival for the Democratic Party nomination, whose support she needed in the Senate.
The final straw was Democratic Party Senator Joe Manchin opposing her while calling her statements “toxic”.
A Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, was Biden’s last hope for salvaging the nomination, but Tanden had personally attacked her alleging she was “high” and her stands were “garbage”.
Defending Clinton against criticism, Tanden had also physically attacked Sander’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir, a Pakistani American, when he had worked for her at the Centre for American Progress. She admitted to The New York Times, “I didn’t slug him, I pushed him.”
By Arul Louis