Lankford Questions OMB Nominee Whose Social Media Tone Doesn’t Match President Biden’s Call for Unity

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s Q&A.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Ms. Neera Tanden to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Lankford questioned Ms. Tanden on disparaging remarks she’s made on social media, especially her depiction of people of faith as using their faith as a “cudgel.” Lankford also asked Ms. Tanden about President Biden’s Executive action to reduce the transparency of federal guidance documents for American small businesses, which Lankford spoke about on the Senate floor last week; the ongoing implementation of his Taxpayer’s Right-to-Know Act, which became law earlier this year; the need to end government shutdowns, for which Lankford introduced a bipartisan bill last Congress; and the need to have more easily accessible federal spending data, which Lankford has fought for years to get.  


On Ms. Tanden’s disparaging social media rhetoric

Lankford: President Biden on his very first full day in office stood in front of the staff of the White House and said this statement, ‘I’m not joking when I say this. If you ever want to work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot—on the spot, no ifs, ands, or buts.’ The challenge you have obviously is walking in some of your previous statements as you’ve already mentioned. You actually have tweeted more in the past four years than President Trump tweeted as far as just numbers, and it’s been pretty hostile obviously. You’ve called Republicans ‘criminally ignorant,’ ‘corrupt,’ and ‘the worst,’ and as you’ve already mentioned over a thousand tweets have actually been deleted by you as you try to clear them, but there’s still a lot that’s there as well.

All that’s partisan. I get that. I do have a concern though, because some of the statements that you’ve made seem to drift out of the partisan issues. One statement that you made about people that have the personal religious convictions about contraception, like Little Sisters of the Poor and others, called them ‘a successful political cudgel helping isolate extreme advocates from the main stream. That one seems to cross a different line for me. So help me understand how the personal religious beliefs of some Americans could be a ‘successful political cudgel.’

Tanden: Well, Senator, first of all I want to say that for anyone offended by my language, you know, I feel badly about that. I think in that regard I was more speaking to people who politicize religion, not people who believe in religion, and political leaders who politicize religion, not people—you know I’m a person of faith myself and deeply respect people of all faiths and all faith traditions.

Lankford: The context didn’t seem to be about people that use religion as a cudgel; it seemed to be that the personal beliefs of those individuals became the cudgel. That’s the part that threw me in that.

On Lankford’s surprise that President Biden reversed a common-sense policy that now makes federal guidance documents harder for small businesses to find

Lankford: Guidance documents is one of the key issues we’ve talked a lot about. I was quite shocked that the first week of the Biden Administration, they took away an Executive Order that did something pretty simple. It just told agencies to collect all their guidance documents and put them all in one place so a small business could find them. It didn’t seem to be partisan; it seemed to be a pretty good idea, to say, ‘Don’t hide your guidance. Put it all in one spot so a small business owner doesn’t have to search for it. They can actually find it.’ Is that something that you would work to reinstate so small business owners don’t have to play hide and seek with agencies on finding the guidance that applies to them.

Tanden: Senator, I absolutely believe that guidance should be transparent and very easily accessible. So I can commit to you that, if I am privileged to be confirmed, I will try to understand the rationale behind the action taken, and will work with you.

On Lankford’s Taxpayer’s Right-to-Know Act, ending government shutdowns, and budget data transparency

Lankford: We’ve worked very hard to try to pass something called the Taxpayer’s Right-to-Know Act. It’s a bill I’ve had for years. It passed unanimously in the House. It then passed at the end of the year in December, both House and Senate, signed by the President. The Taxpayer’s Right-to-Know focuses on one simple thing: how do we actually expose duplication in government, how can we see each program, actually identify each program, how many staff are assigned to the program, and if it’s evaluated, how it’s evaluated. Obviously this is going to take a couple years to roll out, but that would fall on your desk to be able to get that out. The goal is that the American people and Members of Congress could actually type in a search and to be able to see where duplication in government. Currently, we have to go to GAO, and it takes a year and a half to be able to find out what we should be able to get in 18 seconds on a quick search. This is going to be a major project obviously, and I hope to be able to work with you on that to be able to get that done, if you’re finished up with your nomination and appointed on that one.

Another one that Senator Hassan and I have worked on extensively is dealing with ending government shutdowns. It’s a problem that we have worked on for years. It’s a problem that we think needs to be resolved on it. It’s one that we would need the cooperation of OMB to be able to make sure the language is right, but every time there’s a government shutdown, there’s a loss of finances, for the taxpayers, obviously uncertainty for everyone in the federal family, of all those federal workers across the country. It’s a very big issue that we’ve got to be able to resolve.

The next one is an issue of budget numbers. We’ve got to figure out how to be able to actually get numbers out to us in a transparent way. It is a challenge right now. I would tell you, working with the Biden team, we’re trying to just find out how much has been spent of the $900 billion that was allocated in the December bill, how much has already been spent on that. So far, we’re not getting answers. They’re saying, ‘We need $1.9 trillion more,’ but can’t get an answer of how much still remains from the $900 billion. That can’t be that way. We’ve got to actually know.