A veteran Capitol Hill staffer has been serving as the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget.
President Biden is poised to submit his full fiscal 2022 budget request next week, despite not having a permanent budget director or even a nominee for the position yet.
Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination for Office of Management and Budget director on March 2 after several senators said they would not vote for her. Shalanda Young has been serving as acting OMB director since she was confirmed as deputy director on March 23. Many lawmakers called for her to be the director nominee; however, the White House has not announced a nominee yet.
“There have certainly been long delays in confirming OMB nominees before now, but none have ever been voted down or withdrawn after formal nomination until Ms. Tanden,” Andrew Rudalevige, chair of the government and legal studies department and Thomas B. Reed Professor of Government at Bowdoin College, told Government Executive. “There are often, of course, anticipated reactions taken into account in regarding who is nominated in the first place.”
The first OMB director requiring confirmation–– following a change in the law––was Jim Lynn in 1975. Since then, presidents’ first OMB director nominees have been confirmed fairly quickly (usually between January 21 and January 25, with the exception of President Trump’s Mick Mulvaney on February 16), according to Rudalevige.
Rudalevige––whose book, “By Executive Order: Bureaucratic Management and the Limits of Presidential Power,” was published last month––also gave his observations on what the lack of a confirmed director means during this budget season:
“Moving fast to a new president’s budget is always a very hard lift, made harder this time around by the outgoing administration’s refusal to cooperate. OMB is the institutional memory of the [Executive Office of the President], which mitigates the difficulty on the substantive side, but obviously the political leadership of the agency is needed to make sure the career staff can be responsive to the president’s policy preferences. On the other hand, they do have an experienced acting director in place (in Deputy Director Young, who is very well-versed with the congressional side of the equation) and a number of [politically appointed program associate directors] already named. So my guess is the long delay in submitting the budget will offset the lack of a confirmed director in terms of putting forward a document that reflects the new administration’s priorities.”
Meanwhile, in March, Biden outpaced former presidents Trump and Obama on getting all his Cabinet secretaries confirmed, according to The Washington Post and nonprofit Partnership for Public Service’s tracker. This came after an unprecedented presidential transition due to the coronavirus pandemic and alleged resistance from the Trump administration and then a slow start to Senate confirmations.
Biden’s full fiscal 2022 budget proposal will be released on May 28. The president previously released an outline for discretionary spending on April 9.
The White House blamed the Trump administration’s lack of cooperation during the transition in part for the delay in releasing the budget preview as well as the fact that up until Young was confirmed, there was not a confirmed person serving as OMB leader.
“Acting Director Young is a legislative expert with a deep knowledge of the federal budget,” Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chairman of the House Budget Committee, told Government Executive, in a statement on Wednesday. “She has earned the respect and admiration of Congress and OMB is well-served with her at the helm this budget season.”
Government Executive also reached out to the offices for the top Republican on the committee as well as the offices for the chairman and ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee for comment, but did not receive responses by the time of this article's publication.
On the day Biden’s budget outline was released, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the full budget “will present a unified, comprehensive plan to address the overlapping crises we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.” The crises are the pandemic, economic recession, climate change and racial inequity.
“At the same time, we're also inheriting a legacy of chronic underinvestment, in our view, in priorities that are vital to our long-term success and our ability to confront the challenges before us,” Psaki said. The president is seeking to reverse that trend and “this process provides another opportunity to do that, and so the funding proposal is an indication of our priorities.”
Defense One reported earlier this month that the Biden administration could be the tardiest in a century to submit its first, full budget proposal.
Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said, “While certainly they need to get a permanent director in place, the main priority should be that before we move ahead as a nation in considering trillions of dollars of new spending, we need to get an actual budget in place.”
The Biden administration has already gotten its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed as well as unveiled the roughly $2 trillion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.
After Tanden withdrew, the White House said they would find a position for her in the administration. Politico reported last week she was brought on as a White House senior adviser, starting May 17.
The White House and OMB did not respond for comment.