Congressional Democrats are keeping the pressure on President Joe Biden to nominate Shalanda Young to lead the Office of Management and Budget. But more than two weeks after their first pick withdrew, the White House has not given lawmakers, or anyone else, an indication of how it is leaning.
So far, both sides publicly say there is no tension over the delay. But the deliberate pace is in part a result of White House frustration with the ongoing pressure campaign from lawmakers and outside groups to nominate Young.
The administration is still considering other names for the top job at the agency, those familiar with the ongoing discussions say. And if the considerations drag on much longer, they could end up hearing an earful from those lawmakers in Young’s corner.
“I assume that they’re complying with whatever process they’ve established, but I’m definitely gonna weigh in,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a Young supporter.
No Cabinet position has haunted the new president more than the post of director of OMB. Biden aides are trying to create distance between themselves and that first big personnel loss, when Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the agency collapsed over criticism of her past tweets.
But key Democrats have not let them. House leadership quickly called on Biden to nominate Young in Tanden’s place; and though he has yet to do so, they and interest groups aren’t letting up. Black Caucus members are keeping the pressure campaign revving, urging the administration to give Young, a longtime congressional budget aide, the top spot — and soon.
“There is no one else who brings her depth of experience, or congressional relationships and understanding of the budget process, who has already been vetted and who has the support of Democrats and Republicans,” said Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), who has led on transition efforts between the Black Caucus and the White House. “This needs to happen.”
“I am looking forward to the president naming her as the director and the Senate confirming her as quickly as possible,” Horsford added in an interview.
Though members of Congress have made clear their strong support for Young, the White House is not inclined to make any moves until she has been confirmed as deputy director of OMB, a position Biden nominated her to in mid-January. The full Senate is set to vote on Young’s nomination for the deputy post next week.
Though the top three Democratic leaders in the House, the Congressional Black Caucus and some Hispanic Caucus members have lined up behind Young, a source familiar with White House discussions said Jared Bernstein, who sits on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, is a serious contender. Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute think tank, was recommended by Sen. Bernie Sanders for the job shortly after Tanden withdrew and is also being considered.
The administration is also facing pressure from Asian American Pacific Islander advocacy groups and lawmakers to appoint an Asian or Pacific Islander American to replace Tanden, who would have been the first Indian American to hold the position. Groups have rallied behind Nani Coloretti, senior vice president of the Urban Institute think tank.
Asian lawmakers also shared a list of possible candidates with the White House and are engaged in ongoing communication about the vacancy. But they are keeping the list of names private, according to a House aide.
The White House initially signaled it wanted Gene Sperling to lead the OMB after Tanden’s bid failed, but it received pushback from lawmakers who made clear that Young is their choice.
A White House official maintained their deliberations over a Tanden replacement are thorough and proceeding at a normal pace. They downplayed the idea that the lack of a swift decision has created any tension between the CBC and the administration.
“There are dozens and dozens of other positions where they are finalizing nominations and confirmations,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) a close Biden ally, said late last week. “So before we jump all over the Biden team on ‘Oh my god, they’re taking too much time.’ Neera Tanden was the nominee until [recently].”
But as the weeks drag on, lawmakers are pressing the case for Young in a more public fashion. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), another close Biden ally, said, “It would be a shame for anybody to say ‘Well I’ve done enough for Black women so I’ll find somebody else to put at OMB.’ No, she deserves to be there because of her experiences and because of her qualifications.”
“And as far as I’m concerned politically, this is the second year of the Black woman because 2020 certainly was and so there’s no need to stop now,” he said.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y), who also supports Young for the job, said he expects the White House will ultimately come to the same conclusion.
“You’re dotting your I’s and you’re crossing your T’s,” Meeks said. “I believe that’s what the administration is doing. And once they complete that process, I think they will come up to the same position that the House leadership has come up to, the Congressional Black Caucus has come up to.”
Alex Thompson and Caitlin Emma contributed reporting.
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