Shalanda Young, Top House Aide, Is Confirmed as Biden’s No. 2 Budget Official



WASHINGTON — Late one night in February 2019, as lawmakers toiled to break a monthslong impasse over funding a wall at the southwestern border, Shalanda Young leaned over to quietly confer with her boss, Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York.

Now was her moment, Ms. Young told Ms. Lowey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, to issue an ultimatum on funding for Donald J. Trump’s border wall: Republicans could either accept even less than what they had suggested, or Ms. Lowey would walk away from the negotiating table and potentially allow the government to shut down again.

Republicans agreed, and the resulting deal ended a spending fight that had led to the longest government shutdown in history. It is the kind of delicate agreement that has earned Ms. Young bipartisan trust on Capitol Hill, where she was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, 63 to 37, to serve as President Biden’s deputy budget director.

As the first Black woman to serve as staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, Ms. Young played critical roles on Capitol Hill in negotiating not only the dozen annual spending bills, but also a series of five pandemic relief packages that together totaled $3 trillion and represented the leading edge of a sweeping federal response to the crisis.

Now she is headed to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to become the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. After Mr. Biden’s pick to lead the agency, Neera Tanden, withdrew amid bipartisan opposition, Ms. Young will have a leading role steering the office in the coming weeks as the administration begins to prepare its first budget proposal and pursue an ambitious infrastructure plan.

The administration is set to release its funding priorities next week, the agency confirmed on Tuesday and Bloomberg reported earlier.

Mr. Biden has not yet said whether he will elevate Ms. Young to the position of director. But among lawmakers, she is by far the preferred candidate, having drawn an unusual array of public endorsements from across the political spectrum based on her work on the Appropriations Committee. Ms. Young, a 43-year-old Louisiana native, would be the first Black woman to lead the agency should Mr. Biden nominate her.

“I knew that she was the person who had the skills. She had the knowledge, and she always had a smile,” Ms. Lowey, now retired from Congress, said in an interview. “She’s smart. She’s tough. You can be sure she’ll have the facts.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and top House Democrats have repeatedly and publicly telegraphed their support for Ms. Young to the White House. Even before Ms. Tanden withdrew, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, announced that he would support Ms. Young as director.

“She knows how to bring things together, and that’s what we as appropriators try to do,” Mr. Shelby said on Tuesday. “They’re going to have challenges — a lot of hard work — and they need experienced people.”

The agency will play a key role in fulfilling Mr. Biden’s agenda, as well as overseeing the federal budget and executive regulations. Mr. Trump frequently thrust the office into the spotlight, given his penchant for trying to use government funding to carry out his policy and political agenda.

The most notable instance became the center of the first impeachment charges against Mr. Trump in 2019, when lawyers at the budget office approved a hold on foreign aid to Ukraine as Mr. Trump sought a commitment from the country’s leaders to investigate Mr. Biden and his family.

By then, Ms. Young had already demonstrated her knack for forging bipartisan deals even in the most toxic of political environments. The government shutdown negotiations were a particularly heavy lift.

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“It was a difficult time for our nation, but through determination and hard work, we reached a solution — and that’s what Shalanda’s best at,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said during her confirmation hearings. “She knows how to work across the aisle to get a deal done.”

Ms. Young spent most of her childhood in Clinton, La. — population at the time 2,000 — where her maternal great-grandparents lived, got married and started a family. She graduated from Loyola University, earned a master’s in health administration from Tulane University and began work in Washington in 2001 at the National Institutes of Health.

She moved to the House Appropriations Committee in 2007 and worked her way up, building credibility with members of both parties during the annual gantlet of late nights brokering the dozen spending bills needed to keep the government fully funded. Rarely are such agreements struck in normal, waking hours. They are usually the product of relentless rounds of haggling, exchanges of legislative proposals and endless phone calls to ensure that every last detail is ironed out and agreed to.

Ms. Young became the staff director of the committee in 2017, at one point showcasing her personal appreciation for the “Game of Thrones” series with a “hand of the queen” brooch during a hearing. An amateur photographer, Ms. Young decorated the office with photos she took, some of her native Louisiana, and sometimes brought her Italian water dog, Izzy, in the office.

“My work on the Appropriations Committee taught me that both sides can compromise without compromising their values — even when that means no one gets everything they want,” Ms. Young told lawmakers. At the budget office, she said, she would try to use “my experience in these halls to ensure both branches operate with mutual respect and work toward solutions that will improve the lives of those we serve.”

Some Republicans, including Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a former director of the agency, declined to back Ms. Young largely because of her support for removing the so-called Hyde amendment from federal spending bills. The perennial provision prohibits federal funds from going toward most abortions.

“I had planned to support Ms. Young based on her testimony before the committee,” Mr. Portman said. “In reviewing her answers to the committee’s questions for the record, though, I’ve got to say I was really troubled by her responses, particularly her strong advocacy for eliminating the Hyde amendment.”

Of the 13 Republicans who supported Ms. Young’s confirmation on Tuesday, eight serve on the appropriations panel and one, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, introduced her during her confirmation hearings.

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.


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