The American president had to give up the candidacy of Neera Tanden to lead the budget in the White House. He faced opposition from key senators, including from his own camp. The Democrat has only a very narrow majority in the Senate. The coming weeks promise to be tough.
So far, all of the nominations proposed by Joe Biden had been approved, often by an overwhelming majority. For the first time, the American president suffered a setback. While the Senate is made up of 50 elected Democrats and 50 elected Republicans, the chief executive had to give up on Tuesday the candidacy of Neera Tanden to lead the budget of the White House.
“Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no way to get confirmation,” Neera Tanden wrote to Joe Biden as he withdrew his candidacy. Republican senators but also a Democrat had openly declared themselves against his arrival as director of the Office of Management and Budget at the White House (OMB), a very powerful service, in particular responsible for developing the budget desired by the President.
A divisive candidate
Republicans side, elected officials said they were outraged by old comments aimed at them by name. On the left wing of the Democratic Party , those close to Bernie Sanders considered Neera Tanden too centrist. The coup de grace came from Joe Manchin, a more moderate Democrat, who announced at the end of February that he would not vote for her. His “overtly political” statements would have had “a toxic impact” on relations between Congress and the White House, he said.
Very critical of Donald Trump, candidate Neera Tanden had been described by the Biden administration as “an accomplished expert who would make an excellent director”. Bernie Sanders had accused her of making “vicious” and “personal” attacks on Republicans and Democrats on social media, for which she apologized. Without counting the fundamental differences between the senator very on the left and the president of the think tank “Center for American Progress”.
A warning before the arrival of the recovery plan
Democrats have started pushing big bills through the House of Representatives, where they hold a majority. But the failure of the candidacy of Neera Tanden demonstrates if it was necessary the power of senators such as Joe Manchin but also Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) among the Democrats, and for the Republicans, Lisa Murkoswi (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine). ). With a 50/50 balance of power, any Democratic defection must be offset by a Republican vote.
As of this week, a battle that is far from being won is shaping up. The upper house must vote on the stimulus plan for the US economy prepared by the Biden administration, already adopted by the House of Representatives. The Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said Tuesday to count on “enough” votes (51, knowing that the voice of Vice-President Kamala Harris counts double in the event of a tie, Editor’s note) to approve this bill by the weekend.
For this, the increase in the minimum wage provided for in the initial draft has been ruled out. Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema had threatened not to support a text that would contain this measure. No Republican support having been manifested for the moment, the favorable vote of all elected members of the majority is essential for the text to be adopted.
The threat of a “dead end”
Your direct and often grumpy tone for Joe Manchin, 73, and media discretion contrasting with the wigs and colorful outfits of Kyrsten Sinema, 44, the first openly bisexual Senate candidate in 2018: the duo do not have much in common, apart from his relatively conservative positions, which earned him the wrath of the progressives.
Both are opposed to a reform of the Senate which would allow all laws to be passed without going through a first vote requiring 60 votes. Without this rule change, to avoid the so-called “filibuster” obstacle, Democrats and Joe Biden will have to find the support of at least ten Republicans if they want to approve their next big projects: police reform and immigration, gun laws… An almost inconceivable prospect in such a divided Congress.
Democrats “will be more and more angry when they see that the Senate kills all their priorities,” predicts Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia. The next two years, until the parliamentary elections, should be marked by a “deadlock” in Congress, he told AFP. “But I bet there will be more trade-offs than we expect,” he warns.