Despite the tense political climate and several high-profile defeats that suggest President Biden’s nominees are dropping like toy soldiers, his withdrawal rate is on par with the last three presidents, according to an analysis by The Washington Times.
So far, Mr. Biden has withdrawn nine nominees in his first year, which is not unprecedented. At this point in his tenure, former President Donald Trump had seen 13 withdrawals, while former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had 11 and seven withdrawn nominees, respectively.
Mr. Biden has yanked four nominees after Republicans and some moderate Democrats complained their views were too extreme; another was pulled amid a Defense Department watchdog probe into the office he led, one nominee dropped out citing “personal reasons” and three more were withdrawn without explanation.
David Hoppe, who witnessed confirmation battles as the chief of staff to former Senate Majority leader Trent Lott, said the Biden administration shoulders the blame for some of the failed nominees.
“Part of this is that the Biden presidency has put up some people who are clearly very aggressive liberals who believe in the power of the government and exercising the power to the ultimate degree,” he said. “They put up people who I dare say would not have been put up by the Obama administration.”
James Wallner, a senior fellow who studies nominations at the conservative R Street Institute, said when it comes to sizing up nominees, both parties scrutinize them differently. He said Republicans are more likely to latch onto a nominee’s political views, while Democrats tend to look to sink nominees with allegations of wrongdoing.
“Republicans are more likely with Biden to emphasize ideological reasons because it fits within their narrative of Joe Biden as a socialist,” he said. “Democrats emphasize scandal or incompetence.”
Indeed, nearly half of Mr. Biden’s nominees yanked because of their political views, while several of Mr. Trump’s first-year nominees were nixed because of scandals.
Mr. Biden’s nominee to be the nation’s top banking regulator, Saule Omarova, withdrew her nomination last month after concerns from Republicans and moderate Democrats about her academic papers that proposed drastic changes to the banking system. Some deemed her views anti-capitalist.
Neera Tanden, Mr. Biden’s pick to be his budget chief, requested to be withdrawn after a series of far-left tweets attacking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
David Chipman, who was selected to be the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, had his nomination derailed in September after Republicans complained that he advocated extreme positions on gun control.
Mr. Biden also withdrew the planned nomination of Elizabeth Klein to the No. 2 official at the Interior Department before it was even sent to the Senate amid opposition from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, because of Ms. Klein’s advocacy against fossil fuels.
During Mr. Trump’s first year, he withdrew a handful of nominees who were hit with allegations of misbehavior.
Andrew Puzder, who was nominated to head the Labor Department, withdrew after weeks of scrutiny over his treatment of women and years-long employment of an undocumented immigrant.
Daniel Allen Craig, who Mr. Trump picked to the second-in-command at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, bowed out after a government watchdog concluded he falsified government travel and timekeeping records while working in the Bush administration.
Mark Montgomery, who was nominated to serve in the United States Agency for International Development under Mr. Trump, was yanked after he was censured by the U.S. Navy. A Naval investigation concluded that he committed graft and received illicit gifts from a Singapore defense contractor.
Meanwhile, Mr. Biden withdrew Micheal Brown from consideration to be an undersecretary in the Defense Department amid an inspector general investigation into the Pentagon unit he leads. The inspector general is reportedly reviewing allegations that Mr. Brown circumvented hiring regulations, but the probe is still ongoing.
Mr. Brown has expressed confidence that the probe would clear him, but said it could delay his confirmation for more than a year.
Regardless of the reason, a scuttled nominee is a major embarrassment for an administration and bound to have an impact on its effectiveness.
“No administration likes to withdraw a candidate because there is an admission of defeat and an admission that you made a mistake somewhere in the process,” Mr. Hoppe said.
Nominees are often pulled despite an administration’s best efforts to ensure there is nothing in their background an opposing party can exploit.
Mr. Wallner pointed to Mr. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Harriett Miers. He said Ms. Miers was well-vetted, but the administration was caught off guard by opposition from conservatives who questioned her stances on abortion and social issues.
The fight over Ms. Miers and others underscores how the Senate has used its power over nominees to influence policy beyond legislation.
Mr. Wallner said the nomination fight has become a proxy debate for some divisive issues in America. For example, both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump encountered fierce opposition to their nominees to head the ATF. Ultimately, both presidents had to pull them amid lukewarm support.
In the case of Mr. Trump’s nominee, Chuck Canterbury, he was criticized by Democrats for being too weak on gun control, while Republicans assailed him for being too aggressive on the issue.
“The parties disagreed because the Senate really doesn’t debate gun legislation,” Mr. Wallner said. “The Senate doesn’t really do anything anymore in terms of legislation. It is a glorified HR agency so people want to see their senators scoring points on a nominee.”