President Joe Biden’s decide for well being secretary is going through two days of contentious Senate hearings
Xavier Becerra, now legal professional common of the nation’s most populous state, will probably be grilled by two panels. Tuesday, it is the well being committee’s flip, adopted Wednesday by the Finance Committee, which can vote on sending Becerra’s nomination to the Senate ground. If confirmed, he’d be the primary Latino to go the Division of Well being and Human Companies, a $1.4 trillion company with a broad portfolio that features medical health insurance applications, drug security and approvals, superior medical analysis and the welfare of youngsters.
Becerra, 63, represented Hispanic neighborhoods of Los Angeles within the U.S. Home for greater than 20 years earlier than turning into his state’s chief regulation enforcement officer, succeeding Vice President Kamala Harris after she received election to the Senate. His politics are liberal however his model is low-key and oriented towards downside fixing. As a congressman he performed a behind-the-scenes function steering President Barack Obama’s well being care regulation via Democratic divisions within the Home.
Republican opposition has grown louder forward of his nomination hearings. On Monday, Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas launched a letter during which they requested Biden to withdraw the nomination, calling Becerra “unfit for any place of public belief.” Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has known as him “famously partisan.” And the political group Heritage Motion for America launched a cable and digital advert marketing campaign towards Becerra.
Republicans say Becerra is a radical supporter of socialized medication, abortion and curbs on spiritual liberty and that he has no medical expertise.
Democrats are shrugging it off.
Republicans are “simply flailing round,” Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon mentioned Monday. “They’ve completed their finest to attempt to discover one thing that would stick when it comes to their opposition, however there’s no ‘there’ there.”
At a White Home briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki mentioned Becerra is a part of the workforce that Biden wants to execute his COVID-19 response plan.
The pandemic is anticipated to dominate questioning on the Well being, Schooling, Labor and Pensions listening to on Tuesday. Senators of each events need to know concerning the administration’s timetable for a return to near-normalcy, the progress of the vaccination marketing campaign, the outlook for reopening colleges, and the risk from extra aggressive virus mutations.
Becerra is anticipated to make use of as a lot of his time as doable to push Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 reduction plan, which is on observe to cross the Home however faces main political and procedural challenges within the Senate.
In some ways, Becerra was California’s early face of opposition to the Trump administration. He was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to switch Harris and took over as legal professional common in early 2017 as Trump turned president.
Over 4 years, he filed 124 lawsuits, difficult the Trump administration on immigration, environmental and well being care insurance policies. His litigiousness and vocal resistance to Trump’s insurance policies might enable Republicans to color him as a very partisan determine. California took satisfaction in viewing itself because the resistance to Trump, and Becerra embodied that ethos.
Democrats say he is not exterior the mainstream of their social gathering, which strongly helps ladies’s entry to abortion, and the place single-payer government-run well being look after all stays a well-liked coverage place, even when Biden has made clear he does not help it.
Lack of medical expertise does not disqualify a nominee for HHS secretary, though it may be a plus. Latest secretaries have included one physician but in addition a pharmaceutical govt, a White Home price range director and three governors.
Biden’s pandemic response is being coordinated from the White Home. Whereas Becerra could be an essential participant, the administration’s decision-making construction is already in place. Becerra is anticipated to play a central in broader well being care coverage points, similar to increasing insurance coverage protection and making an attempt to curb prescription drug prices.
Kathleen Ronayne, AP’s supervisory correspondent in Sacramento, contributed to this report.