by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The centrists of the Senate may be about to make their power play in the 50-50 chamber, controlled by the Democrats only due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, joined her Democratic colleague from West Virginia in opposition to President Biden’s nominee to run the Office of Management and Budget on Monday. “Neera Tanden has neither the experience nor the temperament to lead this critical agency,” she said in a statement. “Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend. … I will vote against confirming Ms. Tanden.”
“Moderate Democrat Joe Manchin flexed his muscles in a closely divided Senate when his public opposition to Tanden’s nomination started a chain reaction of opposition from moderate Republicans like Susan Collins and Mitt Romney,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “Progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders won’t shed any tears if Joe Biden’s choice for OMB director crashes and burns.”
Sanders and his supporters were as much a target of Tanden’s Twitter tirades as any Republican, which has led to uncomfortable moments as he now chairs the Senate Budget Committee, which has jurisdiction over her nomination. But it is the centrists who have mobilized against her and may block her from joining the Biden administration.
Other priorities loom where centrists are actively working against the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. This includes the $15 an hour federal minimum wage that Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, are against including in the COVID-19 relief package.
“If Manchin’s opposition to the $15 minimum wage kills its inclusion in Biden’s American Rescue Plan, that could provoke a reaction from progressives since it could be part of the bill that House Democrats could approve this week,” Bannon said.