Young wins bipartisan backing for deputy OMB director slot

Nominee for No. 2 slot at key agency is well-known on Capitol Hill after years as top House Appropriations aide

Shalanda Young, nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, testifies during her Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing on March 2, 2021.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Shalanda Young, nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, testifies during her Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing on March 2, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 2, 2021 at 2:46pm

President Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy budget director is on track to sail through the Senate after members on both sides of the Budget Committee pledged support for her at a hearing Tuesday.

Ranking member Lindsey Graham told Shalanda Young, the former top Democratic aide on the House Appropriations Committee, that she was “highly qualified” for the No. 2 role at the Office of Management and Budget. “Everybody that deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say,” Graham said. “You might talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it.”

Young spent the past four years running the Democratic staff on the House Appropriations Committee, starting when former Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., was ranking member and continuing while Lowey held the gavel the past two years. She’s worked for the House panel since 2007 and has forged relationships on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, winning the endorsement of Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., among others.

Biden nominated Young for the position in January, which would put her in charge of the budget portfolio at OMB working under his pick to lead the agency, Neera Tanden, who is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.

But Tanden’s nomination got off to a rocky start with nearly uniform GOP opposition due to past Twitter attacks, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has said he won’t support Tanden.

Graham, R-S.C., later suggested that Young would make a good OMB director if Biden had to pull Tanden’s nomination for the top slot. “You’ll get my support, maybe for both jobs,” Graham said.

Given Manchin’s opposition to Tanden, the White House would need at least one GOP senator’s support in the 50-50 chamber for Tanden to be confirmed. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski at this point looks like the only potential GOP savior.

Murkowski spoke with Tanden on Monday but so far hasn’t said how she’ll vote. “I spent a lot of time talking about Alaska’s rather unique situation because she’s not familiar with Alaska,” Murkowski told reporters Tuesday. “So it was good. It was a wide-ranging conversation.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters Tuesday that Murkowski’s thinking on Tanden’s nomination has been “fluid.”

Murkowski, he said, has been talking with Biden about how the administration’s policies have affected Alaska.

“I think she’s trying to have a conversation with them about things that they could do that would help improve the economic outlook for Alaska,” Thune said.

Beyond Manchin, there may be other concerns within the Democratic caucus with Tanden. Last week both the Budget and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panels postponed a vote on sending Tanden to the floor for confirmation.

Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., clashed with Tanden in the past about the direction of the party, including when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton, whom Tanden used to work for. He’s also expressed concerns about corporate donations to the Center for American Progress during Tanden’s tenure.

Young’s confirmation is expected to be much less dramatic. Budget Committee members repeatedly praised her during the hearing Tuesday and asked questions that were less about her experience or personal views and more about senators’ home-state concerns or long-standing policy goals.

Sanders rattled off a series of questions to gauge how well Young aligned with Biden on several of Sanders’ legislative goals. Those included raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60, guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, and providing universal prekindergarten to 3- and 4-year-old children.

Graham asked about various immigration policies, and John Kennedy, R-La., asked for Young’s help to stop federal government payments to dead people.

“I know it’s complicated, but it’s needlessly complicated,” Kennedy said.

Young said that no one wants fraud, waste or abuse and that federal information technology programs needing improvements are part of the problem, leading to payments going to individuals who are no longer alive.

Young is scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday.