Bernie Hammers Tanden for Taking Corporate Cash

Biden OMB pick faces bipartisan criticism during confirmation hearing

Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
February 10, 2021

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) criticized President Joe Biden's pick to head the Office of Management and Budget for accepting millions from "powerful" corporate special-interest groups.

Sanders, who now chairs the Senate Budget Committee and presided over Neera Tanden's confirmation hearing, began by highlighting her stint as president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that took more than $38 million from top U.S. corporations under her leadership. The Vermont socialist said her decision to take corporate money "concerns [him] very much."

"Too often, campaign contributions are what determines policy rather than the needs of ordinary Americans," Sanders said. "CAP has received money from some of the most powerful special interests 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?"

Sanders's criticism echoes points made by Republicans during Tanden's confirmation hearing on Tuesday. While Biden's cabinet picks have largely cruised through their Senate hearings in recent weeks, Tanden is the first to draw considerable ire from both sides of the aisle—a sign that her confirmation may be in jeopardy. Sanders also echoed Republican concerns over Tanden's long history of launching "personal attacks" on Democrats and Republicans. While Tanden apologized Tuesday for her past comments disparaging GOP officials, Sanders noted that the Biden nominee has also made "vicious attacks against progressives, people who I have worked with."

"We need serious work on serious issues and not personal attacks on anybody," Sanders said.

This is not the first time Sanders has feuded publicly with Tanden. In a 2019 letter sent to Center for American Progress board members, he expressed "deep concern and disappointment" in Tanden's group, writing that the Biden nominee "repeatedly calls for unity while simultaneously maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas." Sanders also highlighted the group's corporate donors to question Tanden's loyalty to the "progressive movement."

Top Center for American Progress corporate donors under Tanden's leadership include Walmart, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Bank of America. Tanden dismissed the notion that she would be beholden to special interests if confirmed, telling Sanders the past contributions would have "zero impact" on her decisions.

Tanden joined the think tank in 2003 under then-president and CEO John Podesta, who chaired Hillary Clinton's failed 2016 campaign. She will need the support of all 50 Senate Democrats in order to be confirmed. Sanders has yet to reveal if he will support Tanden's nomination.