Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2021 / 03:00 pm MT (CNA).- The nominee to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) apologized on Tuesday for referring to opponents to the HHS contraceptive mandate as “extreme.”
“I think the last several years have been very polarizing, and I apologize for my language that has contributed to that,” said Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the key White House office, on Tuesday at her confirmation hearing.
Tanden appeared before members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday, the first of two confirmation hearings this week to consider her nomination to OMB.
During her Tuesday hearing, Tanden explained disparaging remarks she previously made about opponents of the contraceptive mandate, and also reaffirmed President Biden’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion.
In his questions to Tanden on Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) brought up a 2012 essay of hers in The New Republic where she explained the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. As a former member of the administration and head of the Center for American Progress, Tanden has been an outspoken proponent of the mandate.
Tanden had written that the mandate—which was challenged in court by hundreds of non-profits and businesses—would isolate religious opponents of contraception as “extreme.” She said it was ultimately “successful as a political cudgel, helping isolate extreme anti-choice advocates from the mainstream.”
Among the opponents of the mandate were Catholic dioceses and the Little Sisters of the Poor, who said that they were being forced against their beliefs to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans.
Lankford told her that her remark “seems to cross a different line for me,” and asked her explain it.
Tanden initially did not apologize for her statements, but said that “for anyone offended by my language, you know, I feel badly about that.” She said that her “cudgel” remark was critical of “people who politicize religion, not people who believe in religion,” and added that “I’m a person of faith myself and deeply respect people of all faiths and all faith traditions.”
Later, after Lankford followed up his questions to Tanden on her language, she apologized for contributing to polarization.
As CNA reported in December, Tanden was a former adviser to Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and was a strong defender of the HHS mandate.
She helped found the liberal think thank Center for American Progress in 2001, and served there as president and CEO since 2011. The think tank has a history of anti-religious freedom advocacy, and under her watch has engaged in a number of campaigns to promote LGBT “anti-discrimination” and redefine religious freedom to “include LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health and rights.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked Tanden if she would “advocate” against funding of abortions in President Biden’s budget request to Congress.
The Hyde Amendment has been enacted in law each year since 1976 as a budget rider, and bars federal funding of abortions. However, the policy has come under fire in recent years from Democratic leaders who are now advocating for its repeal.
“If you are confirmed in this role, will you advocate that the President’s budget request to Congress next year preserve the Hyde Amendment?” Hawley asked.
Tanden answered that “President Biden has supported repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and so I will anticipate how that operates in the budget process, but that is a position that he took on the campaign and has held.” In 2019, during the presidential campaign, Biden reversed his long-standing support for the Hyde Amendment.
Hawley said that the policy has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support.
“For years now, the Hyde Amendment has reflected a bipartisan commitment not to spend federal tax dollars on government-funded abortions, recognizing that Americans have different views on this issue, but one thing that overwhelmingly Americans have agreed on is that we shouldn’t use federal tax dollars to support or to fund abortions,” Hawley said of the policy.
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