Lindsey Graham Calls Neera Tanden a 'Nut Job' as Republicans Signal Confirmation Battle

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a "nutjob" on Monday as he urged voters to help Republicans retain control of the Senate by winning the crucial Georgia runoff elections.

Graham made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News's Hannity. The senator denounced Biden's OMB nominee Neera Tanden, a former Obama administration official who now leads the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, while admitting that the prospect of two Democratic wins in Georgia "scares the hell out of" him.

"If we win both seats in Georgia, I'll be the budget chairman," Graham said. "The OMB director has to come before the budget committee for hearings to be confirmed. I think I would ask different questions than Bernie Sanders, who would be the budget chairman if Democrats win in Georgia."

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R) attends a hearing in Washington, D.C. on October 15, 2020. Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty

"If you want to make sure this nutjob Tanden doesn't become the director of the budget, in charge of the Office of Management and Budget, then make sure we win in Georgia," added Graham.

Republicans have already signaled that they could block the confirmation of Tanden. There's a chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could even refuse to even allow her nomination to be voted on. Before his Fox News appearance on Monday, Graham said that Tanden would face an "uphill" battle to be confirmed.

Tanden's pointed past criticisms of the Trump administration and Senate Republicans has made her a particularly divisive choice for a prominent role in the incoming Biden administration. As a noted opponent of Medicare for All and a critic of Senator Bernie Sanders, she also faces opposition from some in the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

Republicans only need to win one of the two Senate seats being contested in Georgia on January 5 to maintain control of the upper chamber. Polling suggests that incumbent GOP Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are both locked in tight races with Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

If the Democratic candidates win both seats, the Senate would be split 50-50. However, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would hold the power to breaking any ties, effectively giving the party full control of Congress in addition to the White House.

Although Graham's discussion on Fox News seemed to be based on the assumption that Biden would take office after President Donald Trump leaves, the senator has also been a prominent voice boosting the president's ongoing unverified claims of a "stolen" election. Graham urged Trump to attend Biden's January 20 inauguration if the president-elect "ends up winning" on Monday.

Newsweek reached out to the Biden transition team for comment.