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POLITICO Playbook: The three factions set to face off over Tanden’s replacement – Politico

There are two big questions to answer with the withdrawal of NEERA TANDEN’S nomination to be OMB director: Who killed it? Who will replace her?

The more intriguing question this morning is who did the deed. As WaPo’s Annie Linskey tweeted, “It’s a bit like the game Clue.” Was it KYRSTEN SINEMA, BERNIE SANDERS or LISA MURKOWSKI? None of the three senators had revealed their position as of Tuesday.

Sinema: Though she didn’t publicly commit to backing Tanden, three White House sources insist that Sinema would have been a yes.

Sanders: There was a flurry of intrigue about Bernie on Tuesday night when Tanden’s nomination was pulled. It’s no secret that Sanders and Tanden have a fraught history. His staunchest supporters have long been her fiercest detractors, and Tanden’s meanest tweets have been barbs directed at Sanders going back to the bitter 2016 Democratic primary, when Tanden was a top aide to HILLARY CLINTON.

Three White House sources said that Sanders would have been a yes vote on Tanden if the White House had been able to find a Republican vote to replace JOE MANCHIN, the Democrat from West Virginia who started all of this by publicly opposing her Feb. 19.

But Bernie’s mittens are not clean.

By withholding his support Sanders left Tanden twisting, fostered an atmosphere of a nominee in trouble and made it unlikely for any Republican to step forward in support. Why would a GOP senator break with her leadership unless she was certain she was providing the decisive vote?

Murkowski: While the proximate cause of Tanden’s defeat was Manchin’s opposition, the actual cause was Murkowski, the Republican who seized the opportunity created by a White House desperate to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

Alaska has been the target of early executive actions from President JOE BIDEN pausing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and stopping all new federal leases for oil and gas drilling, and Murkowski tried to use her leverage over Tanden’s nomination to ease the impact of some of the new Biden restrictions. As of Tuesday morning, Biden’s staff was still deep in negotiations with Murkowski and “very willing to cut a deal,” according to a senior White House official.

But any deal had already started to unravel. On Monday, JOHN THUNE of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, was surprisingly chatty with reporters in describing what he believed Murkowski was after.

“There are some policies the administration’s taken already with respect to energy that are very harmful to Alaska,” he said. “She obviously wants to get their attention on some things that are important to her state.”

Thune’s comment got the attention of progressives: Some of them started to freak out about whether the White House might trade important energy or environmental policy to secure Murkowski’s vote. Chief of staff RON KLAIN personally heard from several Democrats alarmed at where the Murkowski talks were going.

By that point the White House had had “prolonged” and “detailed” talks with the senator and her staff, according to one Democratic source close to the deliberations. She offered a “menu of options” that included “a lot of very specific” policies. On Tuesday afternoon, the White House determined — abruptly in the view of some sources — that there was no trade to be had.

Thune’s gambit, if that’s what it was, helped. He had turned the effort to secure Murkowski’s vote into what looked like unseemly horse trading. “It was a little too this for that,” said the Democratic source close to the deliberations.

The official line from the White House is that they gave up on Tanden because Murkowski made it clear that she wouldn’t support Tanden. “She was not a yes,” said the senior White House official. “And so we were out of options.” But Murkowski said she was told of Tanden’s withdrawal before she ever made up her mind. Both can be true: The White House knew what would get her vote and ultimately declined to provide it.

THE REPLACEMENT GAME — Who will be Biden’s new OMB pick? According to our sources there are competing factions on the Hill and inside the White House pushing alternatives, but three names are worth spotlighting.

SHALANDA YOUNG, a congressional staff veteran nominated to be Tanden’s deputy, is favored by many Democrats on the Hill, has a head start in the process — she appeared at a confirmation hearing Tuesday to good reviews — and may be the favorite.

ANN O’LEARY, who like Tanden was a top adviser to Hillary Clinton and was most recently California Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM’S chief of staff, is favored by many in the Clinton policy diaspora. A point in her favor: Klain is said to be a big fan. A point against: Her time with Newsom, who is facing a recall effort, may be used against her.

A third choice mentioned to us by several Biden advisers is SARAH BIANCHI, a longtime Biden loyalist who was his top economic adviser when he was VP and then chair of the policy advisory board at the Biden Institute. A point in her favor: Biden is said to be a big fan. A point against her: Klain seems to be leaning toward others.

The OMB choice will pit three party factions against one another: House Democrats, Clintonites and Bidenites. Close observers of the West Wing who see recent staff decisions as tilted against the uber Biden loyalists will be watching the decision carefully.

SURVEY SAYS — The fight over the minimum wage is on hold for now. But a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows why pressure to raise it isn’t going away: The vast majority of Americans are ready to see the number go up. Three-fifths of respondents strongly or somewhat support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, according to the survey, versus one-third who strongly or somewhat oppose it. Just over a third of Republican respondents said they support a $15 minimum wage.

The Manchin-endorsed wage of $11 an hour is even more popular: Seventy-one percent overall said they strongly or somewhat favor it, including 56% of Republicans. (Other GOP senators such as Maine’s SUSAN COLLINS are talking about going to $10 an hour.) Though when given a choice, respondents preferred $15 an hour (40%) to $11 an hour (29%). Also of note: The since-aborted Democratic idea to impose tax penalties on big companies that don’t pay $15 an hour is popular. Fifty-four percent strongly or somewhat support it, versus 34% who do not. Read the crosstabs here

JOIN US! House Republicans mounted a comeback in November when they picked up a number of seats and defeated several Democratic freshmen who delivered the House majority in 2018. Then the Jan. 6 insurrection happened, setting off an internal war within the GOP. Join RACHAEL and EUGENE today at 9 a.m. for a conversation with NRCC Chair TOM EMMER (R-Minn.) to discuss his strategy for the 2022 midterm elections, DONALD TRUMP’S role in the party and continued fallout from Jan. 6. Register to watch

BIDEN’S WEDNESDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. At 1:45 p.m., Biden will hold a bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office, with Harris attending. Biden will participate in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus at 5 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium. Harris will also visit a woman-owned small business in Alexandria, Va., at 11:50 a.m. to talk pandemic and Covid relief. At 6 p.m., Harris will swear in GINA RAIMONDO as Commerce secretary.

— The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 11 a.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 12:30 p.m.

THE HOUSE meets at 9 a.m. to complete consideration of H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021.” First votes are predicted between noon and 1:30 p.m. Last votes predicted between 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

THE SENATE: The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. on Jan. 6, which will include Pentagon and FBI officials to answer questions about the slowed approval for National Guard support.

THE WHITE HOUSE

SNAIL’S PACE — “Biden’s Cabinet half-empty after slow start in confirmations,” AP: “President Joe Biden’s Cabinet is taking shape at the slowest pace of any in modern history, with fewer than a dozen nominees for top posts confirmed more than a month into his tenure.

“Among Biden’s 23 nominees with Cabinet rank, just 12 have been confirmed by the Senate, or about half. And among the 15 core nominees to lead federal agencies, 10 have been confirmed, or about two thirds. According to the Center for Presidential Transition, about a month into their first terms, the previous four presidents had 84% of their core Cabinet picks confirmed.”

SCHOOL REOPENING STRATEGY — “Biden launches blitz of action to prod schools to reopen,” by Emily Cadei and Natasha Korecki: “Joe Biden is tapping a federal agency to facilitate vaccinations for teachers and child care workers. He is using his bully pulpit to push states to get shots into teachers’ arms by the end of the month. The administration is even considering creating a ‘school reopening’ czar.

“And newly-minted Education secretary Miguel Cardona will launch his tenure on Wednesday with a visit to elementary schools that have successfully reopened, in a high-profile event with First Lady Jill Biden.”

CONGRESS

COVID RELIEF LATEST — “Senate Dems wrestle with unemployment benefits in Biden’s Covid aid plan,” by Marianne LeVine, Caitlin Emma and Burgess Everett: “Senate Democrats left the Capitol on Tuesday evening leaving a crucial policy disagreement unresolved as they hope to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package this week.

“Privately, Democratic senators are suggesting that a last-minute push from Senate moderates to cut a weekly federal unemployment bonus from $400 to $300, while extending the money for a longer period of time, will fail. Biden prevailed on Senate Democrats to put their disagreements behind them during a private call on Tuesday and pass the bill quickly in its current form.”

TRUMP CARDS

ABOUT THAT TRUMP STATUE — Over the weekend we told you that one of the stars of CPAC — that enormous statue of Trump — was made in Mexico. Well, it turns out there’s more to the story. Artist TOMMY ZEGAN had told Playbook he hand-crafted the 200-pound, chrome-painted fiberglass statue with the help of three men in Rosarito, Mexico, where he lives as an American expat. He said he then shipped it to Florida and transported it to CPAC in a U-Haul.

But one of Zegan’s business partners, JOSE MAURICIO MENDOZA, contacted us Tuesday to say that Zegan omitted a major part of the supply chain. While Zegan is based in Mexico, the piece was manufactured at the Shijiazhuang D & Z Sculpture Co. factory in China. “Everything is made in China,” Mendoza told Playbook. “I want to be straight, because if I’m going to sell these statues, they have to be true.” Mendoza dismissed Zegan’s claims that he’s the creative mind behind the sculpture, showing us two Trump bobbleheads that were the inspiration for the statue. “I was the architect of this,” Mendoza said. Zegan’s name was used, Mendoza added, because “no one is going to buy ‘Jose’ stuff, at least not a Donald Trump statue.” As for Zegan, he admitted to Playbook that he left out the true origin of the statue’s journey.

TO TRUMP OR NOT — “The real post-Trump GOP divide: House vs. Senate,” by Burgess Everett and Melanie Zanona: “Hugging Trump has become priority number one for most House Republicans, with feting the former president in Mar-a-Lago becoming a rite of passage among their leaders. GOP senators, by contrast, are trying to chart a different path forward — one built on policy rather than Trump’s personality — figuring that will make their party’s brand more effective than attaching itself to one man. Don’t expect Mitch McConnell to show up in Florida any time soon.

“‘It’s important that we not be a personality-based party,’ said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), who has urged his party to move on from Trump, at least in the short term. ‘Durability as a political party is based around a set of ideas.’”

2024 WATCH — “Ambitious Republicans’ Dance: Embrace Trump, but Don’t Try to Be Him,” NYT: “For ambitious Republicans like Mr. Cotton who are mulling a presidential bid, a challenging and at times uncomfortable audition is underway this winter: trying to use the Trump political playbook to impress and inherit the former president’s supporters — all while navigating the limitation of not being Mr. Trump.

“Some Republicans have been using appearances on Fox News and far-right news outlets to test messages and hone their political pitches, as well as firing off social media posts and delivering remarks at the Capitol to try to engage the right. Last weekend’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., where Mr. Cotton and other Republican leaders-in-waiting spoke, was the most visible stage yet for these politicians — not to mention where they confronted the most scrutiny.”

PARDON ME PLEASE “Bannon, federal prosecutors spar over pardon,” WSJ: “Steve Bannon has asked a judge to dismiss a fraud indictment in New York because he was pardoned, setting up an unusual legal battle with the Manhattan federal prosecutors who say the clemency doesn’t extend to the grand jury’s determination that the former White House strategist committed a crime.”

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

PROGRESSIVES PUSH BIDEN ON IRAN DEAL — Several progressive groups are urging Biden to move more quickly on nuclear talks with Iran, arguing in a letter to the White House that the more time passes, the more emboldened hard-liners will become. The letter is emblematic of more widespread progressive unhappiness with Biden’s recent foreign policy moves, including last week’s airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria and the administration’s decision not to sanction Saudi Crown Prince MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN for the murder of journalist JAMAL KHASHOGGI. On Iran, the Biden administration could counter that it’s been trying to jump-start talks — but the Iranians recently rejected a preliminary offer to come to the table. The letter (h/t Natasha Bertrand)

CUOMO CHRONICLES

‘EVERYBODY HATES HIM’ — “Cuomo Is Facing a Political Extinction Event,” N.Y. Mag: “Governor Andrew Cuomo sounded defeated, senior officials who had spoken with him said. It seemed to be getting to him that the usual strategic plays were suddenly no longer working. ‘Like an old man who just didn’t have the fight in him anymore,’ said one. … The normally efficient governor’s office had been spinning out of control ever since a bombshell New York Times story broke the prior evening detailing how Cuomo had made a series of inappropriate comments to Charlotte Bennett, a young female aide, including asking her if she had ever had sex with older men and if she was monogamous in relationships. “‘They are panicking,’ one former adviser said. …

“‘The problem he has right now,’ said one Cuomo ally, ‘is that everybody hates him.’”

SWEET REVENGE “De Blasio’s payback: New York mayor unloads on wounded Cuomo,” by Erin Durkin

PANDEMIC

TRACKER: The U.S. reported 1,885 Covid-19 deaths and 54,000 new coronavirus cases Tuesday.

TWO MONTHS’ TIME — “Biden Says U.S. Will Have Vaccine Supply For All Adults By May, Prioritizes Teachers,” NPR: “President Biden said on Tuesday that the U.S. will produce enough vaccines for every adult in the U.S. by the end of May, while making a fresh push to vaccinate school staff over the next month.

“‘We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,’ Biden said, crediting his administration’s efforts to boost production and moving up the timeline from the end of July, which is what the president was saying just a few weeks ago.”

TRUMP’S VACCINE TRIUMPH WSJ editorial: “President Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. should have enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May. Last week the Food and Drug Administration finally approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, and this week J&J struck a deal with Merck to manufacture the single-shot J&J vaccine as well. With the Moderna and Pfizer shots already going into more than a million American arms each week, thousands of lives will be saved.

“It’s important to appreciate what an achievement this is. Critics scoffed when President Trump set a target of having a vaccine approved by the end of 2020, and Kamala Harris suggested she might not take a shot recommended by the Trump Administration.”

POLITICS ROUNDUP

FUNNY MONEY — “Donors gave a House candidate more than $8 million. A single firm took nearly half of it,” WaPo: “U.S. House candidate Kim Klacik walked onto Mike Huckabee’s cable talk show last August as the latest conservative celebrity, riding high on a viral campaign ad that had attracted 10 million views and was shared on social media by President Donald Trump and his eldest son. …

“The company that produced the video, Arsenal Media Group, would take a cut. And a firm hired to promote the video, Olympic Media, would keep up to 70 percent of the money it generated, some of which was not disclosed in Klacik’s initial campaign finance filings.”

MEDIAWATCH

MOONVES CASE PAYOUT — “Leak of bombshell CBS investigation leads to multimillion-dollar settlement,” Vanity Fair: “The media giant and a law firm hired to probe sexual-misconduct allegations against former CBS chief Les Moonves are said to have paid millions to someone who claimed a breach of confidentiality after The New York Times revealed explosive details from a draft report on the investigation.”

FOX NEWS BATTLE — “Roger Ailes Victim Loses Another Round in Her Defamation Suit Against Fox News,” Daily Beast: “Former Fox News guest booking director Laurie Luhn, a repeated victim of the late Roger Ailes’ alleged sexual misconduct, lost a major legal round Tuesday in her federal defamation lawsuit against Fox News Media and its chief executive, Suzanne Scott.

“Affirming a lower-court decision dismissing Luhn’s complaint, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia ruled that a 2019 Los Angeles Times profile of Scott—in which the executive insisted she ‘had no clue on what was going on in Roger Ailes’ office’ and ‘I have never had any issues with any sort of harassment myself’—could not meet the legal standard for defamation.”

WIRED IN — Gideon Lichfield is now global editorial director of Wired. He previously was editor in chief of the MIT Technology Review. More from NYT

SPOTTED at a virtual screening Tuesday night of “The Mauritanian” co-hosted by the Motion Picture Association and STXfilms, which also featured a Q&A between MPA Chair and CEO Charles Rivkin and Jodie Foster, who won a Golden Globe for her performance in the film: Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Rod Rosenstein, Dina Kawar, Maguy Maccario Doyle, John Fithian, Cameron Normand, Adam Liptak, Audie Cornish, Margaret Carlson and Geoff Lamb.

VACCINATED TUESDAY: CNBC Washington correspondent Kayla Tausche … NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro

TRUMP ALUMNI — Dana Wade has joined Walker & Dunlop as chief production officer for Federal Housing Administration-backed loan originations. She previously was commissioner of the FHA. … Rachael Baitel is now chief of staff at health care firm Russell Street Ventures. She most recently was deputy chief of staff at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and is a USAID, White House and Goldman Sachs alum.

TRANSITIONS — Sheryl Pardo is now SVP of public affairs at the Housing Policy Council. She previously was director of comms for the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center. … Dan Elbaum is now head of North America for the Jewish Agency and president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development. He previously was chief advocacy officer at the American Jewish Committee. …

David Sanchez is joining the Democratic Attorneys General Association as senior deputy political director. He previously worked at Our Poder, a political firm in Texas. … Rick VanMeter has launched Prevail Communications. He previously was comms director for Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and is an Andy Barr, Adrian Smith and Geoff Davis alum.

ENGAGED — Maggie Miller, legislative correspondent for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Patrick Ruffini, CEO and founder of Echelon Insights, got engaged Saturday afternoon in Charleston, S.C. Pic Another pic

— Madi Shupe, comms director for Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), and Brady Carpenter, a director at Ankura, got engaged Sunday at their new home.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) … NYT’s Elaina Plott Alex SmithGeorge Little RGA’s Jesse Hunt Dan Conston … former Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) … Ira Glass Marc Short … CBS News president Susan ZirinskyTim Morrison … Mayer Brown’s Andrew OlmemAlexa Henning Ron ChernowPeter Mirijanian … WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom … Trump W.H. alum Steve Smith … POLITICO’s Lily BhandariAllie Carroll Carlton Carroll Freddi Goldstein Hadar AraziCameron French Michael Remez Richard Lichtenstein Caitlin Gallagher Tom Nelson, a Democrat running for the Senate in Wisconsin … Laura Engquist, deputy COS for Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) … David YasskyJason Dick Patrick GavinAmanda Crane Tone Loc

Got a document to share? A birthday coming up? The skinny on Biden’s next OMB nominee? Drop us a line at [email protected] or individually: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.