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Neera Tanden, the newly appointed director of the budget in the White House by President Joe Biden, credited her success to her India born mother’s “grit and resilience” to make it on her own in America.
Tanden, 50, will also appear before the Budget Committee on February 10, Wednesday morning. Both panels must approve her nomination before Senate leaders can schedule a floor vote.
Her mother Maya and family members were present during her confirmation hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 9.
If confirmed by the Senate, Tanden would be the first woman of color and first Indian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which serves the President of the United States in overseeing the implementation of his vision across the executive branch.
“I owe my presence here to their love and support and to the grit and resilience of my mother, an immigrant from India who was left to make it on her own in America with two young children after her divorce from my father. Back then, she faced a harsh choice. Stay in the United States and rely on the social safety net or return to India where she knew her children would face the stigma of divorce,” Tanden told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing.
“She (mother) had faith in this country and made the decision, I believe the courageous decision, to stay. We relied on food stamps to eat, Section 8 vouchers to pay the rent,” she told the Senators.
“At school, I remember being the only kid in the cafeteria line who used USD 0.10 vouchers from the free and reduced lunch program. I remember using food stamps in the grocery store. Within just a few years, my mother found a job and a few years later, she was earning a middle-class salary. Soon, she was able to buy a home and eventually, she saw her children off to college and beyond,” Tanden said.
Senator Amy Klobuchar who introduced her during the hearing also praised her mother Maya.
“Neera is the daughter of Indian immigrants and grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts, raised by her mom Maya, Neera learned the value of perseverance at a very young age. Determined to succeed, like so many immigrants, Maya put her kids first and, as a single mom, she first relied on food stamps and public housing to make ends meet,” Klobuchar said.
“Maya then found new footing and began working as a travel agent, forging her family’s path to the middle class. It is her mother’s work ethic and resolve that all of us see in Neera and it’s those same qualities that I know will serve her well as our next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” she said.
“As she started out as a travel agent, Maya may not have ever thought that her daughter would one day be asked to serve in the cabinet of the president of the United States. But after years of never taking no for an answer and setting high expectations for Neera, somehow we all ended up here today. Maya, Neera, her family, and all of us.
Tanden told lawmakers that she spent every day grateful for a nation and a government that had faith in her mother and in her, that invested in humanity and gave her a fair shot to pursue her potential.
Growing up, Neera understood the circumstances of her family’s struggle and watched social programs work. Because of what–that personal connection, she knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue public service,” the Senator said.
“As a child in line with my mom at that grocery store—feeling shy and a bit embarrassed as my mother used foods stamps instead of money—I never dreamed that one day I would be sitting in this august room, with great leaders like all of you,” Tanden said.
Turning to her professional qualifications to lead the budget office, she noted that “for the past decade, I’ve led a major think tank that engages many areas that OMB handles every day—from budget plans, to regulatory proposals, to efforts to make government more effective.”
“My experience also extends to both the legislative and executive branches, having served in the US Senate, at the White House under President Clinton, and at an agency under President Obama.”
“I believe that experience provides me with a strong foundation to lead OMB,” Tanden would say while acknowledging “the role of OMB Director is different from some of my past positions.”
If confirmed she “would ensure that OMB uses every tool at its disposal to efficiently and effectively deliver for working Americans, small businesses, and struggling communities.”
“I would vigorously enforce my ironclad belief that our government should serve all Americans— regardless of party—in every corner of the country,” Tanden would say.
“I would ensure that our budgets reflect the values of a nation built on hard work, human dignity, common purpose, and boundless possibility.”