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GOP, Dem senators confront Neera Tanden over ‘vicious’ personal attacks

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Senators from both sides of the aisle confronted President Joe Biden‘s pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Neera Tanden, at a Wednesday Senate Budget Committee hearing over past statements and personal attacks she has made on social media. This is the second day of her confirmation hearings.

Notably, the committee’s chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at one point during the hearing brought up Tanden’s “vicious” personal attacks against Republicans and progressives. She herself once referred to the Vermont independent as “crazy.”

“I think most of us understand that it’s important that we debate the issues and try to minimize the level of personal and vicious attacks that seem to be so prevalent all over this country today,” Sanders said before noting that Republicans had sent him a letter expressing their concern about her past attacks.

“But of course your attacks were not just made against Republicans,” Sanders said. “There were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally. So as you come before this committee to assume a very important role in the United States government, at a time when we need serious work on serious issues and not personal attacks on anybody, whether they’re on the left or the right, can you reflect a little bit about some of the decisions and the personal statements that you have made in recent years?”

Tanden, who used to run the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank, replied that she now realized the hurt that her comments have caused and that she feels “badly” about it.

“And I really regret it and I recognize it’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others and I look forward to taking that burden and I apologize to people on either the left or right who were hurt by what I’ve said,” she added.

However, the Vermont senator said the point is not about whether people were hurt by her words, but rather the actual words.

“It’s not a question of being hurt, we’re all big boys,” Sanders said. “But it’s important that we make the attacks expressing our differences on policy, that we don’t need to make personal attacks no matter what views somebody may hold.”

One moment that also grabbed attention was when Republican Sen. John Kennedy (La.) accused Tanden of calling the Vermont independent “everything but an ignorant s—,” when talking about the cornucopia of tweets she had deleted.

Tanden interjected, saying: “That is not true, Senator.”

Cutting in for a second, ranking member Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) joked: “I wouldn’t have said ‘ignorant.'”

Kennedy then repeatedly pressed Tanden about if she meant what she said in her controversial tweets, but she wouldn’t directly answer his of “did you mean them,” saying “I feel badly about them” at one point during the exchange.

Graham during the hearing also confronted her about her previous statements, saying they make her a divisive nominee.

“Her scorn was not limited to Republicans,” the South Carolina Republican said, before reading aloud one of Tanden’s tweets that said: “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal e-mails did to help Hillary.”

“The point I’m trying to make here is that in a time of unity, we’re picking somebody with those sharp elbows, and there’s going to be a consequence for that, hopefully on our side,” Graham added.

Also during the hearing, Sanders brought up concerns about major corporate donations Tanden solicited while serving as the head of CAP, such as from large tech companies and banks. Tanden vowed that those relationships would not affect her decision-making if confirmed as director of the OMB.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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