The OMB Is More Important Than You Think

Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.The Office of Management and Budget is one of those agencies that’s little known to the public but surprisingly important in real life. In addition to managing the budget process, it’s also the agency that does things like regulatory review and cost-benefit analysis, which can make all the difference between environmental regulations succeeding or failing. Progressives were concerned that Joe Biden might nominate Bruce Reed, a noted deficit hawk, to run OMB, but this turned out to be a head fake. Instead he has nominated Neera Tanden.
In theory there should have been no need to play games over this. Tanden is a longtime Clinton ally who has run the Center for American Progress for the past couple of decades, and her politics are pretty progressive. But there’s more to it. She’s also one of us. And by us I mean ordinary folks who get into periodic Twitter feuds and make a few enemies along the way. Personally I consider this great, since it suggests a real human being beneath the political exterior, but then again, I suppose I might feel differently if any of those feuds had been with me.
I’ve avoided that fate—no surprise since I seem to agree with her about nearly everything—but one of Tanden’s most visible feuds has been with Bernie Sanders, which naturally means she’s viewed as less than totally progressive despite her policy preferences. Thus the fake with Bruce Reed. Regardless of how you come out in the Tanden-Sanders fight, even progressives are breathing a sigh of relief that at least Biden didn’t choose Reed.
So that’s that. Except for one thing: Tanden has also been mean toward Republicans! Hard to believe, I know. But Sen. John Cornyn, who apparently has forgotten what his party routinely says about Democrats, has declared this a terrible affront against civility and says that Tanden will never be confirmed by the Senate. We’ll see. If Republicans refuse to confirm anyone who’s ever been critical of Republicans, we’re going to have a very long battle to confirm Biden’s cabinet.