Louisiana’s Shalanda Young a step closer to becoming Biden’s budget director
WASHINGTON — Louisiana native Shalanda Young on Tuesday moved one step closer to formally becoming the Biden administration’s top budget official, though it wasn’t immediately clear if she’d receive broad Republican support.
Young, who became deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget in March, testified for hours before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel as well as the Budget Committee in her bid for the director role.
If confirmed, Young would become the first Black woman to lead the Office of Management and Budget. The Cabinet-level agency is in charge of rolling out the president’s annual budget request to Congress, as well as overseeing federal agencies’ performance, reviewing major regulations and issuing statements of administrative policy on legislation.
Republicans on the two panels questioned her about reducing the federal deficit, curbing inflation and whether she wants to roll back a decades-old provision that prevents the federal government from spending money on abortion access, with limited exceptions.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Homeland panel, told Young that her previous statements on the so-called Hyde amendment gave him and his colleagues “grave concern” about her leading an agency with sweeping control of federal spending.
Portman then asked Young if she would “clarify” her stance on the funding prohibition.
Young said she would “certainly commit to not trying to weaken the Hyde amendment if Congress chooses not to remove it from appropriations bills.” The answer was similar to the one she gave during her confirmation process for deputy director.
At the beginning of that process, Young appeared to have backing from a large swath of Senate Republicans. But that changed after she answered written questions from Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Lankford and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley regarding the Hyde amendment.
Young wrote that “eliminating the Hyde Amendment is a matter of economic and racial justice because it most significantly impacts Medicaid recipients, who are low-income and more likely to be women of color.” She added that she would follow the spending law, but that didn’t alleviate GOP concerns.
Portman said at the time that he had planned to support her nomination for deputy director, but that he was “really troubled by her responses, particularly her strong advocacy for eliminating the Hyde amendment.”
Young ultimately received the support of 13 Republican senators in a 63-37 floor vote confirming her as deputy director.
Among her GOP backers were Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley and Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy.
Support from top Republican
Budget Committee ranking member Lindsey Graham said during his panel’s confirmation hearing Tuesday that he plans to vote to confirm Young for a second time, as well as deputy director nominee Nani A. Coloretti.
“You might talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it,” Graham said.
But Graham pressed Young on the White House’s stance on defense spending, arguing that its proposal to boost those accounts by 1.6 percent is insufficient given the growing global threats.
North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican, also indicated he’d back Young for a second time, saying she has a strong understanding of the legislative process and a respect for the institution, much of which she gained working her way up the ranks of the House Appropriations Committee before becoming staff director.
“In my now 10 years roughly in Congress I’ve never worked with a budget director that was as attentive, that was as understanding, that could drill down as deeply on specific issues and actually took the time to do it,” Cramer said.
Other GOP senators on the panel offered far fewer compliments, pressing Young on how much COVID-19 aid remains unspent, why guidance from the Transportation Department on the bipartisan infrastructure law says states shouldn’t use the highway funding to increase the capacity of highways and how much debt the federal government can handle in the future.
Young, in response to a question from Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, said she doesn’t believe the country’s debt is “in an unsustainable situation.”
Young said the Biden administration believes that debt would become too costly if it begins to crowd out other investments, a situation historically low interest rates are helping to stave off.
Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said that Young would bring “a really important perspective as we work to build an economy that really works for everyone in this country.”
Centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona indicated her support for Young based on her history of bipartisanship as a senior staffer for the House Appropriations Committee and her work during her first several months as the acting head of OMB.
“She exemplifies what OMB needs to be successful — she’s accessible, transparent, pragmatic and focused like a laser on getting things done,” Sinema said while introducing Young ahead of the Homeland Committee hearing.
And Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said that in less than a year in the deputy director role, Young helped shape the Biden administration’s budget priorities, assist states with federal funding following natural disasters and helped implement the bipartisan infrastructure law.
She also gave birth to her first child in October, he noted.
“If juggling all that does not prove she’s more than qualified for the job, I’m not sure what would,” Leahy said.
Big picture on the federal budget
Young spoke about becoming a mother when answering a question from Delaware Democratic Sen. Tom Carper about her big picture view of the federal budget.
Young said there are two fronts to how OMB and the Biden administration approach federal spending.
The first, is making sure the federal government makes the right investments.
“I’m thinking about child care, which I’m probably thinking about because I’m a new mother and so it is an issue front and center,” Young said. “So we need to be very deliberate in our investments to make sure that we are getting to these pocketbook issues that hit hard with families and ensure that there’s full participation in the workforce.”
The second, she said, is fiscal responsibility. Young noted the Biden administration has proposed ways to pay for its new spending proposals, saying that is the “right fiscal and economic” approach.
“We can disagree about those investments and offsets, but the first step is making sure that we offer them. And this president has done that,” Young said.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as well as the Budget Committee are expected to vote on her nomination in the coming weeks.
If both panels vote to send her nomination for OMB director to the Senate floor, it’ll then be up to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to set a floor vote.