Latest News USA

Indian American Neera Tanden to join White House as senior advisor

The Biden administration has announced that Indian-American Neera Tanden, who had withdrawn her nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) amid bipartisan criticism, will now join the White House as a senior adviser to President Joe Biden.

In a statement, John Podesta, the founder of Center for American Progress (CAP) said: “Neera’s intellect, tenacity, and political savvy will be an asset to the Biden administration as she assumes a new role as senior adviser to the president. While we will be sorry to lose her considerable policy expertise and leadership at the Center for American Progress–an organization which we founded together in 2003–I am exceptionally thrilled to see her step into a new position serving this White House and the American people.”

He further said that many of the policy solutions under the Biden administration were developed and led by Tanden at CAP over many years.

“The administration’s efforts will be magnified with Neera Tanden on the team, and I am excited to see what she will achieve in the role of senior adviser and in the years to come,” he added.

Tanden serves as president and CEO of CAP and has served as the CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

In March, Tanden had withdrawn her nomination as Director of the White House OMB after the Democrats failed to secure enough votes in the Senate to secure her confirmation.

President Biden’s pick to lead the White House budget office had earlier generated early controversy, emerging as an immediate target for conservatives and Republican lawmakers. Neera is said to have run in trouble with some of the Republican senators due to her comments about some members of the Senate on Twitter, The Hill reported.

Besides accepting Neera’s request for withdrawal, US President Joe Biden indicated that she will be brought back in another capacity in his administration.

“I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work,” Biden said.

If Tanden had been selected, she would have been the first woman of color and the first South Asian American to lead the OMB.

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Latest News USA

Indian-American lawmakers, groups welcome verdict in Floyd death case

Washington, DC: Several Indian-American lawmakers and groups have welcomed the decision of a federal grand jury in Minneapolis holding Derek Chauvin, a former police officer, guilty on all three counts in the death of African American George Floyd.

“Justice was served today, but convicting Derek Chauvin won’t fix the system that continues to terrorize and kill Black lives. It won’t bring back George Floyd,” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.

“Black lives matter—and we must keep fighting for them by passing the Justice in Policing Act and transforming policing,” Jayapal said.

Congressman Ro Khanna said, “This verdict brought accountability. I hope it will be the first of many. But it doesn‘t change the fact that George Floyd should still be alive today. We now must pass the Justice in Policing Act.”

“My heart remains with the Floyd family. His life mattered. Black lives matter,” said the lawmaker representing Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives.

Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera tweeted: “Justice has been served.”

“Grateful for justice. My heart goes out to the Floyd family,” said Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress.

The South Asian Bar Association of North America applauded the jury verdict that found Chauvin guilty on all counts.

“While this verdict was a step in the right direction, it is only one step in a broader fight against the systemic racism within our country,” SABA said.

“Justice was served today, but justice must be served every day,” said Rippi Gill, president of SABA North America.

“We must not let our guard down, and we must continue to fight against the racism and violence plaguing our communities throughout the country,” he said. (PTI)


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Latest News USA

Tanden nomination pulled, Biden promises another gig

Washington: “I look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work,” Biden said on Tuesday after Neera Tanden accepted defeat in her bid for Senate confirmation as the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

After a week of desperate attempts by Biden and Democrat leaders to get at least one Republican senator to defect and vote for her, she wrote to Biden, reports IANS, “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

The post of the director of the OMB is one of the most powerful in the US as the official oversees the crafting of the $5 trillion US budget for all the departments and vets policies and appointments.

She would have been the second Indian-American to be in the US cabinet, the first being Republican Nikki Haley, who was in former President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

Biden can appoint Tanden to a senior position in the White House which would not need Senate approval, unlike cabinet and some senior jobs.

This was the first defeat for Biden in getting a nominee through the Senate and it had been expected from the time she was one of his first nominations in November shortly after his election because of her volatility.

After Democrat Senator Joe Manchin announced that he will not vote for Tanden citing her venomous tweets and statements, her confirmation in the evenly divided Senate was in doubt.

After some Republican straddlers had refused to vote for her, the Democrat’s last hope was Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, but she would not commit to supporting her either.

Tanden, who is close to Hilary Clinton and advised her campaign, had also attacked Leftist Senator Bernie Sanders who had run against her for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

Several Democrats have said that Republicans went along with Donald Trump, who was known for his mean tweets, but were now setting a very high standard for Tanden.

Biden has appointed over 20 Indian-Americans to senior positions, but not all of them require Senate confirmation.

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Latest News New York

Conservatives clash on Indian-American associate attorney-general nominee Vanita Gupta

New York: After President Joe Biden’s Indian-American cabinet nominee, Neera Tandon, the focus is now on Vanita Gupta, who is soon to face the Senate for confirmation as the third highest-ranking official in the Justice Department.

Conservatives are split on Gupta, a civil rights lawyer, with two groups fighting it out with TV ads — one rallying against attacks on her by another.

President Joe Biden has nominated Gupta to be the associate attorney-general and the Senate is to take up her confirmation – a requirement for senior administration positions – on March 9.

The first salvo came from the Judicial Crisis Network with an ad campaign accusing her of being soft on crime.

In a reference to the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality that sometimes turned violent last year, the group’s ad said, “When our cities burned Gupta could’ve stood for law and order, for victims. Instead, she advocated to let convicts out of jail.”

However, it also coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and her suggestion to release some of the low-level criminals only echoed that of former President Donald Trump’s Attorney General William Barr, who wanted to ease crowding in jails that could spread the disease.

According to media reports, the Network spent $800,000 on the campaign.

Now, the Defending Democracy Together (DDT) organization is countering it with a campaign ad of its own that is on YouTube and is set to air on TV.

Urging her nomination, the ad said, “Don’t let Washington play politics with the nomination of Anita Gupta.”

It said that she “has been building bridges across partisan divides, she has the broad backing of law enforcement” and has the support of leading conservatives.

DDT is a group of Republican conservatives who have opposed Trump. Its directors include former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Linda Chavez, the highest-ranking woman among former President Ronald Reagan’s White House staff.

Gupta will need the support of all the 50 Democrats in the evenly-divided Senate to get her nomination approved – or will have to get Republican support if anyone from her party defects.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a petition against Gupta was being circulated by some Republican state attorneys-general.

Countering that campaign and the one by the Network campaign labelling Gupta soft on crime, three groups of law enforcement officials – Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs of America and Federal Law Enforcement Officials Association have come out to support her.

During his Senate hearings Merrick Garland, who was confirmed as the attorney-general, faced hostile questions about Gupta from Republican Senator Mike Lee.

Garland vouched for her saying, “I regard her as a person of great integrity and a person dedicated to the mission of the department, particularly equal justice under the law.”

Gupta was the principal deputy assistant attorney-general and head of the Civil Rights Division in former President Barack Obama’s administration.

She made her mark as a newly-minted lawyer by winning the release of 38 people, most of them African-Americans, who had been wrongly convicted by all-White juries on drug charges in a Texas town and also got them $6 million on compensation.

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Latest News USA

Senate vote on Tanden nomination paused

Washington: Two Senate committees abruptly postponed on Wednesday preliminary votes on confirming Neera Tanden, the beleaguered Indian American nominee for a cabinet position, as the powerful director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

With the votes uncertain for her confirmation by the full Senate after a key Democratic Party Senator Joe Manchin opposed her, the Homeland Security and Budget Committees delayed the preliminary votes on approving her nomination.

Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who heads the Homeland Security Committee, said the delay was because “people needed a little more time to assess it.”

While there were media reports speculating that the postponement was a prelude to withdrawing her nomination, President Joe Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki said he stood by her.

At her daily briefing, she downplayed the postponement saying that efforts were underway to get Senate support for her.

In the 100-member Senate that is evenly divided between the Democrats and Republican, Manchin refusing to back her tilts the balance away from the Biden nominee.

The administration is trying to get at least one Republican to support her, but so far four of the seven considered likely to vote with the Democrats have said that they would not support her.

Tanden has a history of intemperate Twitter attacks on politicians of all parties, which was cited by Manchin and the Republicans as the reason for opposing her.

She deleted about 1,000 tweets and has apologized for them.

One of those she attacked, Senator Bernie Sanders, is the chair of the Budget Committee.

Democrats have accused the Republicans of following double standards because they have stood by Trump who fired a steady stream of virulent tweets against his adversaries.

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Latest News USA

Biden ropes in 20 Indian-Americans in his administration

Less than 100 hours ahead of his historic inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden has either nominated or named at least 20 Indian Americans, including 13 women, to key positions in his administration, a new record in itself for this small ethnic community that constitutes one percent of the country’s population. As many as 17 of them would be part of the powerful White House complex.

It is also for the first time ever that so many Indian-Americans have been roped into a presidential administration ever before the inauguration. Biden is still quite far away from filling all the positions in his administration.

Topping the list is Neera Tanden, who has been nominated as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and Dr Vivek Murthy, who has been nominated as the US Surgeon General.

Vanita Gupta has been nominated as Associate Attorney General Department of Justice, and on Saturday, Biden nominated a former foreign service official Uzra Zeya as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

“The dedication that the Indian-American community has shown to public service over the years has been recognized in a big way at the very start of this administration! I am particularly pleased that the overwhelming majority are women. Our community has truly arrived in serving the nation,” Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami told PTI.

Mala Adiga has been appointed as Policy Director to the future First Lady Dr Jill Biden and Garima Verma would be the Digital Director of the Office of the First Lady, while Sabrina Singh has been named as her Deputy Press Secretary.

For the first time ever among the Indian-Americans include two who trace their roots to Kashmir: Aisha Shah, who has been named as Partnership Manager at the White House Office of Digital Strategy, and Sameera Fazili, who would occupy the key position of Deputy Director at the US National Economic Council (NEC) in the White House.

White House National Economic Council also has another Indian American, Bharat Ramamurti, as Deputy Director.

Gautam Raghavan, who served at the White House in the previous Obama Administration returns to the White House as Deputy Director in Office of Presidential Personnel.

Among Biden’s inner circle is his top confidante for a year Vinay Reddy, who has been named as Director Speechwriting.

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Latest News New York

Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick for Budget Office, draws fire from the left and the right

New York:  Neera Tanden would become the first Indian American, and first woman of color, when confirmed, to head the influential Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But her formal nomination Tuesday by President-elect Joe Biden has drawn a fire of opposition from both Republicans and progressives alike. Currently she is the chief executive of the left-leaning Centre for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization.  Tanden was a close ally of Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, and helped pass Obamacare.

The presidential transition team said this about Tanden, who has a JD from Yale Law School, “Her experience as a child relying on food stamps and Section 8 housing — a social safety net that offered her single mother the foundation she needed to land a good job and punch her family’s ticket to the middle class — instilled in her the true necessity of an economy that serves the dignity and humanity of all people.”

The communications director for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tanden “stands zero chance of being confirmed.”   Drew Brandewie tweeted that Tanden “has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators whose vote she’ll need.”

Even Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Governor, slammed Tanden’s nomination, saying Tanden has “shown bad judgment in the past”, for example, spreading a baseless theory that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016 because Russian hackers flipped votes.

Tanden’s reported selection also sparked angry reactions from the left, such as Brianna Joy Gray, the former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, who called Tanden a woman who is openly disdainful of Sanders and his coalition. “Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden,” Gray tweeted.

Not all progressive figures objected to Tanden. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said Tanden, along with Biden’s other picks for his economic team, is “committed to full employment, boosting wages, reducing inequality”.

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Latest News USA

‘Help is on the way’

Wilmington, Del: With coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surging in the country and the job market struggling to pull itself out of the abyss caused by the pandemic, President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday formally announced the advisers who he hopes can guide the United States back to solid economic footing.

The six-person economic team Biden has tapped comprises veterans from previous Democratic administrations and, if confirmed, includes a number of historic firsts.

Speaking from Wilmington, Del., the President-elect referred to the group as “first rate” and well-equipped to meet the dual challenges the pandemic and the sputtering economy present.

“A team that’s tested and experienced, it includes groundbreaking Americans who come from different backgrounds but who share my core vision for economic relief here in the United States of America,” Biden said.

Biden said Congress should come together to pass a “robust” aid package, but he also repeated his call for “immediate relief” in the lame duck period before he takes office. The rollout of Biden’s team comes as lawmakers have offered new aid proposals.

Biden also laid out a laundry list of economic goals that must be addressed early on in his administration. These include keeping businesses and schools open safely, delivering economic relief for those who have lost jobs or had hours cut, stabilizing the nation’s health care system and addressing racial inequities the virus has laid bare.

“Our message to everyone struggling right now is this: Help is on the way,” Biden said.

The incoming administration’s economic team is set to be led by Janet Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair whom Biden nominated for treasury secretary. Yellen would become the first woman to lead the department in its 231 years of existence.

Yellen also highlighted many of the economic challenges facing the Biden administration and vowed to champion policy changes to deal with issues such as gender discrimination and small business lending that blocks wealth-building opportunities for communities of color.

“It’s a convergence of tragedies that is not only economically unstable, but one that betrays our commitment to giving every American an equal chance to get ahead,” Yellen said.

Neera Tanden is to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed, Tanden would be the first woman of color to lead the OMB.

“We face great challenges as a country right now. To recover, we must restore the American dream — a society where each person can rise to their potential and dream even bigger for their children,” she wrote. “As Treasury Secretary, I will work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all.”

Cecilia Rouse, one of the nation’s top labor economists, is to serve as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. If confirmed, the Princeton dean will become the first African American and the fourth woman to lead the CEA in its 74 years of its existence.

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Latest News USA

Indian American Maju Varghese appointed exec director of Biden inauguration

Washington, DC: President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have appointed Indian-American Maju Varghese, who steered their campaign, to be the executive director of their inauguration – the swearing-in ceremony and the festivities around it.

The announcement makes Varghese the fifth Indian-American to be appointed to an important position by Biden and Harris. Earlier, Biden had formally announced the appointment of Neera Tanden as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Varghese played an important part in the successful Biden-Harris campaign as its chief operating officer and as a senior adviser to the former Vice President. He ran the logistics for the nationwide, multi-million-dollar effort to elect Biden, mobilizing tens of thousands of staff and volunteers.

He had worked for former President Barack Obama as his special assistant and deputy director of advance, a position in which he worked on organizing his travel in the US and abroad.

One of those assignments was organizing Obama’s 2015 historic trip to India for the Republic Day celebrations.

Varghese later became assistant to the President for administration and management and oversaw the White House complex.

His parents immigrated from Thiruvalla, Kerala, to the US, where he was born, and is a lawyer by training.

The inauguration of Biden as President and Harris as Vice President is slated to take place on 20 January 2021, as mandated by the constitution when they will formally take over the offices.

Tony Allen, who was named the CEO of the inauguration committee, said: “This year’s inauguration will look different amid the pandemic, but we will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe.”

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