Indian American Neera Tanden tipped to head Biden’s budget office

Neera Tanden, Photo credit: The American Bazaar

If confirmed, Neera Tanden will be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to lead the OMB.

President elect Joe Biden Monday named Indian American Neera Tanden, a controversial close confidante of the Clintons, to head the powerful White House Office of Management and Budget.

Tanden, 50, who currently heads left leaning think tank Centre for American Progress, will be the first Indian American to get a cabinet level position in a Democratic administration.

But overall it will be the second such position for the community as Republican Nikki Haley held cabinet-rank as President Donald Trump’s US ambassador to the UN.

Besides Tanden, key members of Biden’s economic team include Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury, Wally Adeyemo as her deputy, Cecilia Rouse, as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers with Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey as members.

“This crisis-tested team will help President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris lift America out of the current economic downturn and build back better,” an announcement from Biden transition said.

READ: Indian American Neera Tanden named co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential transition team (August 16, 2016)

“These choices reflect the president-elect’s commitment to building an administration that looks like America, drawing on the diverse backgrounds and lived experiences of some of our nation’s foremost economic experts,” it added.

“As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever,’ he said.

“This team looks like America and brings seriousness of purpose, the highest degree of competency, and unwavering belief in the promise of America,” Biden said. “They will be ready on day one to get to work for all Americans.”

“Our top priorities upon entering the White House are getting this virus under control and opening our economy responsibly,” said Harris.

“The outstanding economic team that President-elect Biden is bringing together will help us deliver on our commitment. They are not only some of America’s most brilliant economic minds, they are also proven leaders who reflect the very best of our country,” she said.

“And they share a fundamental commitment to ending this economic crisis and putting people back to work, while rebuilding our economy in a way that lifts up all Americans.”

“With the selection of these crisis-tested public servants, the American people are getting the economic team they need — and deserve,” Harris said.

The announcement noted that If confirmed, Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history, and the first person to have served as Treasury Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Chair of the Federal Reserve.

If confirmed, Tanden would be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to lead the OMB, it said.

Tanden, according to her official bio released by the transition, “has focused on pursuing policies designed to support working families, foster broad-based economic growth, and curb rampant inequality.”

Her experience as a child relying on food stamps and Section 8 housing as a child — a social safety net that offered her single mother the foundation she needed to land a good job and punch her family’s ticket to the middle class,” it said.

“A veteran of multiple presidential administrations, Tanden has been a leading architect and advocate of policies designed to support working families, foster broad-based economic growth, and curb inequality throughout her career,” the announcement said.

Prior to her tenure as President & CEO, Tanden held the post of Chief Operating Officer at the Center for American Progress.

She currently serves on the New Jersey Restart and Recovery Commission, and previously served as senior adviser for health reform at the US Department of Health and Human Services developing policies and provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Tanden also worked as director of domestic policy for the first Obama-Biden presidential campaign, and in a variety of other roles in government and on the campaign trail.

A native of Bedford, Massachusetts, Tanden received her bachelor of science degree from UCLA and her JD from Yale Law School.

Tanden’s nomination is a part of Biden plan to build a team of liberal and centrist economic advisers to serve alongside planned Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen, The Wall Street Journal said.

Tanden, The Washington Post said, will be under pressure from conservatives to rein in government spending but will probably play an instrumental role in crafting the Biden administration’s response to the current economic downturn.

“Big job and a real important first in the Cabinet,” said Shekar Narasimhan, a top fundraiser for Biden who has known Tanden for a long time.

She has a great story (single mother, knows what it is to be poor) but went to Harvard and is the most well-versed person in progressive economics I have ever met,” he said adding, “I am (a) huge Neera fan!”

Tanden, who went to Yale, was born in Massachusetts in 1970 to parents from India, who divorced when she was five. Tanden and her brother were brought up by their mother.

“On the heels of Kamala Harris set to become the next vice-president, it is great to see another well qualified Indian American woman be nominated for a Cabinet level position,” said MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, an advocacy group for the community.

“It is gratifying to see someone who has dedicated herself to public service be recognzed for this important role to manage the budget of the country.”

(This post was updated November 30, 2020)

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