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Politics & Policy

Wait, You Think That Senator Is Going to Save the Neera Tanden Nomination?

Center for American Progress Action Fund president Neera Tanden speaks on the third day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., July 27, 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Color me extraordinarily skeptical of the scenario imagined by the gang at Politico’s Playbook:

Tanden’s best hope for confirmation now lies with finding support from MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) or LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska). There are two reasons they might step forward. Tanden is close to White House chief of staff RON KLAIN, and her defeat would be seen not just as a defeat for President JOE BIDEN but as a personal rebuke to Klain. If Biden and Klain want to go all-out to save Tanden, they could offer Romney or Murkowski or — less likely — another Republican something significant in return.

But the more intriguing motive for Romney or Murkowski to back Tanden has to do with the internal dynamics of the 50-50 Senate, where there’s a budding competition among centrists for primacy. If Tanden is defeated, Manchin will get credit for it.

As several Senate sources noted to us Sunday night, a true power move now — though one that’s still not likely — would be for a Republican moderate such as Romney or Murkowski to swoop in and save Tanden to show Manchin that he doesn’t actually run the Senate.

I mean, if I’m Romney or Murkowski, and the Biden administration says, “We’ll give you anything you want if you vote for Tanden,” then yeah, maybe I ask for something huge in return and if they’re willing, I make the deal. But it had better be something huge, because if I vote for Tanden, I’m not just the Republican apostate who voted to convict Trump; I’m the Republican apostate who put a bonkers Hillary apparatchik with a thick file of HR issues in charge of the Office of Management and Budget. (The Biden team has no idea how much Joe Manchin is trying to save them from unneeded headaches.) Whatever side deal the Biden administration offers, it has to be sweet enough to offset a lot of deserved grief that a Republican senator would get for voting for Tanden.

The Politico Playbook scenario struck me as those NFL “analysts” who envision one-sided trades in which their favorite team gets the much better end of the deal. I mean, yes, technically it is not impossible, but it represents unrealistic wishcasting that wastes everybody’s time.

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