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HHS nominee Xavier Becerra faces Republican opposition

Kate Irby, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans who want to derail Xavier Becerra’s nomination to join President Joe Biden’s Cabinet as Health and Human Services secretary will get their first shot at hearings this week — but they’re going to have a hard time.

Becerra is one of Biden’s few Cabinet nominees who Republicans intend to fight. The Senate has confirmed seven of Biden’s Cabinet picks so far. Save for one of those confirmed picks, Republicans haven’t made concerted efforts to sink Biden’s nominees.

But Becerra will be different — especially after his well-publicized record of suing former President Donald Trump’s administration 123 times on issues ranging from immigration, to environmental productions and LGBTQ rights.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described Becerra as “famously partisan” in a floor speech in late January.

“His recent experience in health policy seems largely limited to promoting abortion on demand and suing groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor who dare to live out their religious convictions,” McConnell said, referring to a lawsuit filed by Becerra against a Catholic organization that refused to follow a mandate under former President Barack Obama that said they had to cover birth control for employees.

At least half a dozen Republican senators have aired similar complaints about Becerra. They also portray him as too inexperienced for an important job as the nation’s health secretary, especially during a global pandemic.

 

Becerra, who is originally from Sacramento, California, previously served in the House of Representatives for more than a decade before becoming California’s attorney general in 2017.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Becerra “isn’t qualified for the job” and called him a “lawyer and a career politician” with “no experience in public health.”

“Facing a once-in-a-century pandemic, one might think that Biden would nominate, say, a doctor or a seasoned health care executive to oversee the federal response and vaccine distribution,” Cotton said.

If confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services, Becerra will lead an agency that includes the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. He’d play a critical role in how the nation responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

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