The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans’ appalling confirmation record is symptomatic of their entire approach to politics

Neera Tanden, President Biden's nominee to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, testifies during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Feb. 10. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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The White House on Wednesday issued a fierce defense of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, following the delay of committee votes on her confirmation:

The galling double standard that Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) apply to nominees — they approved of Richard Grenell, whose misogynistic tweets and hyperpartisanship were not barriers for his ambassadorship, but object to Neera Tanden’s partisan criticism of Republican hypocrisy — should not obscure an even bigger problem with Republicans’ selective outrage.

Republicans (and Manchin for that matter) routinely confirmed utterly unqualified, partisan and unfit nominees under the previous administration because these were the president’s choices. Consider former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who had zero public-sector experience and delivered one of the worst confirmation hearing performances in memory. All 52 Republicans voted for him, as did Manchin. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who inexplicably dubbed Tanden as inexperienced, voted to confirm him as well.

Or consider Mike Pompeo, who as a congressman conducted a partisan fishing expedition into Hillary Clinton’s actions based on false information. Nominated for CIA director — a position for which nonpartisanship is essential — every Republican but Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) voted to confirm him, as did Manchin. Try to find a theory by which Pompeo is considered temperamentally suited to be CIA chief and a long-time policy wonk such as Tanden should be excluded from OMB. You won’t find one — other than mean-spirited partisanship.

Many of the same Republicans who turned a blind eye to Donald Trump's controversial tweets slammed OMB director nominee Neera Tanden for her Twitter history. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Take a rhetorical bomb thrower and right-wing radical such as Mick Mulvaney, also nominated for director of Office of Management and Budget. He gleefully championed the 2013 federal government shutdown (“good policy” he called it). Other than the late John McCain, not a single Republican (Collins included) opposed him. He was sufficiently bipartisan, but Tanden is not? Are we supposed to believe that senators who ignored a president who was banned from Twitter for four years was “offended” by Tanden or “concerned” about partisanship? Please.

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Twenty Republicans opposed the confirmation of Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations, despite her being an African American woman with decades of experience in the Foreign Service. Not experienced enough? These were the Republicans that rubber-stamped, for example, John Ratcliffe, the prior president’s intemperate, unqualified pick for director of national intelligence.

It is long past time that we stop giving credence to Republicans (and Manchin, who seeks to camouflage himself in their midst) for their concocted rationales for indefensible, hyperpartisan conduct. The nub of the problem is not Tanden’s tweets or partisanship; it is the persistent Republican belief that a Democratic president is not entitled to the same deference the GOP extended to the disgraced, incompetent president even as he nominated cronies and ethically challenged and unqualified nominees beset by conflicts of interest.

Their attitude toward nominations is symptomatic of their entire approach to politics: It is about theater, about feeding right-wing media (which loves nothing better than to paint progressives as extreme radicals) and never about governance, let alone bipartisanship.

Read more:

Karen Tumulty: The people concerned about Neera Tanden’s incivility sure didn’t seem to mind the Trump era’s

Jennifer Rubin: Senate committee chairs should crack down on Republicans

Greg Sargent: The opposition to confirming Neera Tanden is based on a lie

Hugh Hewitt: The GOP should forgive Neera Tanden

Greg Sargent: Tom Cotton’s dumb attack on a Biden nominee hints at the future of Trumpism