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Biden makes it official: Young gets OMB director nod

Former top House Appropriations aide has been acting budget director since March

Young testifies at her confirmation hearing on March 2, 2021 to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Young testifies at her confirmation hearing on March 2, 2021 to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Joe Biden on Wednesday said Shalanda D. Young would be his nominee for White House budget director, solidifying a role she’s been filling in an acting capacity for months.

Young, a former Democratic staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, has served as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget since the Senate confirmed her as deputy director in March on a 63-37 vote.

[Young confirmed as OMB deputy director]

Biden originally nominated Neera Tanden, former head of the Center for American Progress think tank, to be OMB director. But she withdrew her nomination in early March after several moderate Democrats voiced concerns amid unified Republican opposition. Later, Biden named Tanden a senior adviser and, ultimately, White House staff secretary.

The Louisiana native has become one of the top advocates for the Biden administration’s fiscal 2022 budget request, which proposed a 16.5 percent boost for domestic and foreign aid programs while asking Congress to increase defense funding by 1.6 percent.

[Neera Tanden out, ending lengthy stalemate over divisive OMB nominee]

Young’s nomination comes just as year-end spending negotiations are starting to heat up.

Republicans rebuked the Biden administration for proposing a narrow funding increase for defense, arguing that it could cede the United States’ role as a leading military power.

Senate Budget Committee ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who backed Young’s nomination for deputy director, told her during a June 8 hearing that the defense spending level was the “real problem” with the proposal.

“How do you grow the Defense Department to compete with the technologies being developed by Russia and China if our defense spending is less than inflation? Their spending is not less than inflation, so this budget, I think, is blind to the world in which we live in, in terms of military threats,” Graham said.

Young told the panel the larger increase for nondefense discretionary programs would “restore nondefense appropriations to its historical average share of the economy.”

At the time, she told Graham that getting to a final topline spending level and completing appropriations bills “has to be a bipartisan process.”

So far, there hasn’t been much movement towards a bipartisan deal on spending levels. Republicans have thus far declined to negotiate funding allocations unless Democrats first agree to maintain status quo policy provisions carried in appropriations bills, including on contentious topics like abortion.

As a result, lawmakers are set to take up their second stopgap funding bill of the fiscal year next week after returning from the Thanksgiving break.

The length of the continuing resolution hasn’t been decided yet.

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is pushing to extend temporary funding levels for only a couple of weeks beyond the current CR’s Dec. 3 end date. She’s said the new stopgap shouldn’t have any “anomalies” in it to prevent disruptions that can arise under a CR’s flat funding levels, to try to incentivize a quick omnibus deal.

[DeLauro pushing for short stopgap funding bill, no ‘anomalies’]

But some in the Senate prefer to punt final decisions on fiscal 2022 spending into early next year, either February or March. And while the White House hasn’t taken a position, OMB has sent lawmakers a list of anomalies that would be needed under a February stopgap bill, according to a person familiar with the talks.

Hyde amendment

Republicans, who were opposed to Young’s stance on federal funding for abortion when she was the deputy nominee, aren’t likely to rethink their opposition now.

Young had been on track to get broad GOP support after her confirmation hearings, but eight of 11 Republicans on the budget panel and all seven on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted against reporting her nomination to the Senate floor.

“I had planned to support Ms. Young based on her testimony before the committee,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said at the Homeland Security Committee’s markup in March. “In reviewing her answers to the committee’s questions for the record, though, I’ve got to say I was really troubled by her responses, particularly her strong advocacy for eliminating the Hyde amendment.”

The 45-year old provision, named for the late Rep. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., prohibits federal funding for abortions, with limited exceptions for rape, incest or the woman’s life.

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., criticized panel Republicans at the time for objecting to a candidate they had said was qualified.

“In her written responses, Ms. Young stated that ending the Hyde amendment is a matter of economic and racial justice because its impact is felt most among low-income women of color. This is simply a statement of fact,” Peters said. “But she also confirmed that she will follow current law, which includes the Hyde amendment. So I have a hard time following the objections of my Republican colleagues.”

Another issue that came up during her earlier confirmation process is a policy the Trump administration put forward on the day before leaving office that would change how the federal government defines a city.

The proposal would raise the threshold to be considered a metropolitan statistical area from 50,000 residents to 100,000 in its urban core. That change could have a significant impact on federal funding decisions and affect as many as 144 communities.

Young told members of the House Budget Committee on June 9 that members of both parties have “made it clear what a problem this would be.” Subsequently, the budget office formally withdrew the proposal.

[OMB backs off change to ‘city’ definition]

Young has broad backing from Democratic lawmakers, many of whom worked closely with her during her time as a top appropriations aide.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C. put out a joint statement in early March urging Biden to promote Young from deputy to director.

They wrote that her “legislative prowess, extensive knowledge of federal agencies, incisive strategic mind and proven track record will be a tremendous asset to the Biden-Harris Administration.”

If confirmed, Young, who began working for the House Appropriations panel in 2007 before becoming its top Democratic aide in 2017, would become the first Black woman to lead the budget office.  

The Congressional Black Caucus also backed her bid for the No. 1 slot at OMB.

“Her leadership of the OMB would be historic and would send a strong message that this Administration is ready and willing to work with Congress to craft budgets that meet the critical challenges which face our nation, and can secure broad, bipartisan support,” CBC Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said in a March statement.

Biden on Wednesday also announced he’d nominate Nani A. Coloretti, who’s currently at the Urban Institute think tank, as deputy director of OMB. The White House pointed out in a release that if both Young and Coloretti — who is Filipina American — are confirmed, the budget office “would be led by two history-making women of color who are experienced and highly qualified.”

Coloretti previously served throughout much of the Obama administration in different roles, including three years as a deputy secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a position for which she was confirmed in a 68-28 vote. Coloretti also spent five years at the Treasury Department, with her portfolio including establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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