Neera Tanden

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Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Tanden in 2019
Born (1970-09-10) September 10, 1970 (age 50)
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Yale University (JD)
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
(m. 1999)
Children2

Neera Tanden (born September 10, 1970) is an American political consultant and former government official. She is the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy organization where she has worked in different capacities since its founding in 2003.

Tanden has worked on several Democratic presidential campaigns, including those of Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, and Barack Obama in 2008. Tanden was a senior staffer to Hillary Clinton during her 2000 election to a United States Senate seat in New York, and during Clinton's tenure as a Senator. Tanden advised Clinton during her run for the 2008 Democratic nomination, and later helped her defeat Bernie Sanders to win the nomination in 2016, and run against Donald Trump in the 2016 general election. In her government service with the Obama administration, Tanden helped draft the Affordable Care Act.

In November 2020, then President-elect Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Tanden to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In March 2021 she asked for the nomination to be withdrawn due to insufficient support in the U.S. Senate.

Early life and education

Neera Tanden was born on September 10, 1970,[1][2] in Bedford, Massachusetts,[3] to immigrant parents from India.[4] She has a brother, Raj. Her parents divorced when she was five, after which Tanden's mother was on welfare for nearly two years before obtaining a job as a travel agent.[5][6]

Tanden received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1992[3] and graduated from Yale Law School with a Juris Doctor in 1996. At Yale Law School, she was submissions editor for the Yale Law & Policy Review.[7]

As a freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles, Tanden met her future husband, artist Benjamin Edwards.[4] Edwards and Tanden both volunteered on Michael Dukakis's unsuccessful run for President in 1988. Tanden worked as a precinct leader in the Bel Air district of West Los Angeles where many households had already contributed to the Dukakis campaign.[8]

Career

Tanden has worked on domestic policy on Capitol Hill, in think tanks, and for various Democratic senatorial and presidential campaigns.

Work with the Clintons

Tanden has been regarded as a Clinton loyalist[9] and personal friend of Hillary Clinton,[10] whose professional life has been significantly defined by her work with the Clintons.[11] She worked with President Bill Clinton's campaign on new energy policies, and health-care reform, as associate director for domestic policy in the Clinton White House,[12][13] and as a domestic policy advisor in the First Lady's Office.[14]

In 2016, Bruce Reed, a Democratic political operative, said Tanden played a role in implementing Clinton's welfare reform bill, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, signed in 1996.[15] Tanden denied the claim and in response posted a screenshot of what she claimed was an email from Reed.[15]

In 1999 and 2000, Tanden was deputy campaign manager and policy director for Hillary Clinton during her successful senatorial campaign in New York.[16][17] After the election, Tanden served as Senator Clinton's legislative director from 2003 to 2005.[12][3]

Tanden was Hillary Clinton's policy director for Clinton's unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.[5][18] In a 2019 article, the New York Times cited a source claiming that Tanden punched ThinkProgress website editor and future Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign manager Faiz Shakir in the chest for asking Clinton about her Iraq War vote. Tanden went on record as stating that she had not "slugged" him but had pushed him.[9]

Tanden was an unpaid adviser to Clinton's successful 2016 primary season nomination campaign and unsuccessful general election campaign in opposition to Republican candidate Donald Trump, while also running the Center for American Progress. After Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, Tanden was named to her transition team.[19] Tanden was considered a candidate for a top White House job, had Clinton won the presidency.[9]

2008 Obama general election campaign

After Barack Obama was nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate, Tanden was one of the first, and also one of the few former-Clinton campaign staffers to join his team.[20] She was domestic policy director for his successful general election campaign.[18][21]

Obama administration

Tanden served in the Obama administration as senior adviser to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services. She helped to draft the administration's health care legislation, including work specific to its proposed, but later withdrawn, public option.[22][23][24][25] She also negotiated with Congress and stakeholders on several provisions of the bill.[20] She has been described as one of the "key architects" of the Affordable Care Act.[26]

Center for American Progress

Tanden speaking in 2013 on behalf of the Center for American Progress

In 2003, Tanden had a central role in the founding of the Center for American Progress (CAP).[27] Tanden worked as Senior Vice President for Domestic Policy, while also serving as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and, starting in 2010, as Chief Operating Officer.[12]

On November 1, 2011, Tanden succeeded John Podesta as CAP's president and CEO.[27][28]

In 2016, a hacker obtained access to Podesta's private emails, which included exchanges with Tanden.[29] The emails were then published on WikiLeaks.[29] In one exchange, on August 11, 2015, while discussing news that Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig was exploring a bid for the Democratic nomination, Tanden wrote of Lessig, "I fucking hate that guy."[30] Lessig responded to the incident by saying that while he supported whistle blowing and a pardon of Edward Snowden, Tanden should not have to be burdened with having her private emails scrutinized and that it was not in the public interest.[30] Tanden called the release of her personal communications, which often feature her blunt private assessments, a painful experience to endure.[29]

In 2016, blogger Matt Bruenig, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, was fired from the think tank Demos after tweets he made that were critical of Tanden (calling her a "scumbag"), leading many to allege that she was involved in his firing, allegations which Tanden has denied.[31][32][33][34]

After the 2016 election and Clinton's loss, Tanden refocused the work of the Center for American Progress, aiming to have the think tank, and especially its advocacy arm (the Center for American Progress Action Fund), serve as a "central hub for Trump resistance"[35] as well as playing a leading role in shaping the healthcare debate within the Democratic Party.[36] In 2020, the group promoted their "Medicare Extra for All" plan, made as a counter to Medicare for All which, despite the name, did not call for as much coverage.[36][37] The idea was widely panned by progressive activists, but largely formed the basis for the healthcare plan provided by Beto O'Rourke's 2020 presidential campaign.[37]

Tanden as CAP president

In 2018, following reports by BuzzFeed News of sexual harassment allegations within CAP, Tanden revealed to a meeting of CAP's entire staff the first name of a CAP employee anonymously accusing a manager of sexual harassment, leading many people in the room to gasp and Tanden to apologize.[38]

On April 28, 2020, Tanden was named to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's Restart and Recovery Commission. The commission was tasked with preparing the state to reopen after its COVID-19 lockdown.[39]

Office of Management and Budget nomination

On November 30, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden announced that Tanden would be his nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget.[40] Immediately following the announcement, Tanden deleted over 1,000 of her previous tweets,[41] and changed her Twitter bio from "progressive" to "liberal".[42] During the confirmation hearing, Tanden apologized for several of her tweets attacking Republican senators, including tweets calling Susan Collins "the worst", comparing Ted Cruz to vampires, and using the nickname "Moscow Mitch" for Mitch McConnell and comparing him to Lord Voldemort.[43] Senator John Cornyn described Tanden as "radioactive" in contrast to other Biden nominees he felt were more acceptable.[44] Senator John Kennedy stated that she "called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut", a reference to a 1970s Saturday Night Live catch phrase.[45][46] NPR described her as "Biden's most controversial Cabinet pick".[47]

Many members of the 2016 and 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns, such as Briahna Joy Gray, strongly dislike Tanden and have drawn an explicit distinction between "progressives and Neera Tanden"; Politico described her nomination as "the equivalent of rubbing salt in the wound".[48]

In February 2021, Senator Joe Manchin said he opposed her nomination due to "overtly partisan statements" in the past, putting her approval in doubt due to the 50-50 split in the Senate between both parties.[49][50] Other senators, including Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, and Pat Toomey said they would also vote against Tanden's nomination.[51] Collins cited Tanden's deletion of over 1,000 of her tweets after the announcement of her nomination for a reason why she is not voting to confirm her which, according to Collins, "raises concerns about her commitment to transparency".[52] Some senators remained undecided, including Lisa Murkowski after meeting with Tanden, as well as Kyrsten Sinema, and Bernie Sanders.[53][54] Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt asked Senate Republicans to forgive her and approve the nomination,[55] but none indicated they would do so.[56][57] Senate panels which were set to vote on her nomination have postponed consideration.[58]

On March 2, 2021, the Biden administration withdrew Tanden's nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget.[59][60] According to a statement released by the White House, Tanden asked for her nomination to be rescinded, having concluded that confirmation was no longer in reach and that her nomination had become a distraction from the administration’s other priorities. President Biden said he had the “utmost respect” for Tanden and pledged he would find a role for her somewhere in his administration.[61]

Political views

Tanden in 2016

Tanden has been described by The Washington Post as a "progressive",[20] by Business Insider as a "centrist",[62] and by Vox as "one of the more liberal members of Clintonland".[31] She is regarded as a loyalist and confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton.[9][63] She credits her experiences growing up relying on government assistance as the reason she has entered politics and the motivator of her career.[64] She is known for her outspoken and prolific Twitter presence, where she has criticized lawmakers both to her political left and right.[65] Senator Bernie Sanders wrote a letter in 2019 accusing Tanden of "maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas".[48]

In 2019, Tanden welcomed the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of being "the agent of a proto fascist state, Russia, to undermine democracy."[66]

Domestic policy

Much of Tanden's work relates to healthcare policy in America. She worked on the passage of the Affordable Care Act during the Obama administration.[27] Tanden supports a multi-payer universal healthcare system,[67][68] and opposes single-payer healthcare, including Medicare for All proposals.[69][70]

Tanden has argued that cuts to social welfare programs, including cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, should be considered as a part of long term deficit reduction.[71] During her presidency, the Center for American Progress (CAP) has advocated for pegging periodic increases in Social Security benefits to the chained Consumer Price Index or chained CPI, which would regress the program to more austere accounting methods to help its beneficiaries keep pace with inflation.[72]

Tanden has been a critic of the policy proposals and supporters of U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.[73] During the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, she opposed Sanders's signature proposals of a $15 per hour minimum wage and single-payer healthcare.[48][74] However, she expressed support for the Fight for $15 movement in 2017.[75]

Foreign policy

Tanden has been described as "hawkish". In September 2013, Tanden tweeted that "an unpoliced world is dangerous."[76] The Center for American Progress has been described as having close ties to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.[77][78][79][80][81] In 2016, she met India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[82] Tanden has condemned Modi's government for anti-democratic actions and creating a climate of violence against Muslims in India.[83]

Israel

In 2015, Tanden and CAP criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for engaging in hyper-partisan activity during his trip to Washington D.C. to lobby against the Obama backed Iran nuclear deal. When Netanyahu visited D.C. again later in the year, he requested an audience before the left-leaning CAP. Tanden, agreed to Netanyahu‘s request, saying it would be hypocritical to do otherwise, adding the event would include a Q&A segment between attendees and the PM. Tanden’s decision drew harsh criticisms from progressives organizations, many of whom said she was giving Netanyahu “legitimacy”, allowing him to speak before a group like CAP. Tandem responded by saying, “It was not an easy decision but at the end of the day we are a think tank. He’s the leader of a country with which the US has a very strong relationship. There are issues we care about in Israel and the region. So we agreed to hold a forum."[84]

She called the U.S. recognition of Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in March 2019 as "a blatant political move" to benefit Benjamin Netanyahu.[85]

Tanden in 2014

Libya

Before the U.S.–NATO bombing of Libya, Tanden tweeted her support for Gaddafi's removal.[76]

In October 2011, Tanden said (in a private email made public by WikiLeaks) that the US had "a giant deficit" and it "doesn't seem crazy" to have "oil rich" nations such as Libya "partially pay [the US] back" for intervention.[86] Tanden said this would be preferable to cuts to Head Start, WIC or Medicaid.[86] Journalist Glenn Greenwald noted Tanden's comments were similar to Donald Trump's statements on Iraq's national oil resources: "I say we should take it and pay ourselves back."[78]

Syria

In September 2013, when President Obama was considering bombing Syria, Tanden tweeted: "On Syria, while I don't want to be the world's policeman, an unpoliced world is dangerous. The U.S. may be the only adult in the room left." Tanden said she opposed deploying U.S. soldiers to Syria.[76]

Honors

  • 2012: Tanden was named one of the 25 "Most Influential Women in Washington" by National Journal.[87]
  • 2014: Elle named Tanden one of the ten most powerful women in Washington, D.C.[88][89]

See also

References

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External links

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
John Podesta
President of the Center for American Progress
2011–present
Incumbent