President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will finally appear before a Senate committee Tuesday for his confirmation hearing — and partisan fireworks could erupt.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is the most controversial Cabinet choice to date. While enough Republicans joined Democrats to approve all of Biden’s nominees so far — more than two dozen still await confirmations — observers believe GOP senators are saving their ammunition for next week.
Becerra is unpopular among Republicans due to his radical views, but also his more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration. As a main defender of the Affordable Care Act, Becerra led a group of Democrat attorneys general arguing why the law remains valid.
More importantly, his lack of discernible health leadership experience makes Becerra a questionable choice to lead HHS; the timing is even more dubious during a pandemic when HHS has jurisdiction over the CDC, vaccines, and other crucial areas.
The Southern California News Group editorial board — an umbrella group of daily newspapers published in Becerra’s hometown of Los Angeles — opposed his selection Wednesday, calling him the “wrong choice,” and writing in part:
“While his left-leaning views differ widely from ours, we didn’t really expect a Democratic president to select nominees that conform to our free-market philosophy. But we have two significant deal-killing concerns with Becerra after watching him operate in Sacramento. The first is his rabid partisanship. The second is his heavy-handed approach toward policy disputes. Those are the wrong traits in a person responsible for implementing Biden’s coronavirus measures, the success of which will require broad acceptance. The new president promised a less-toxic atmosphere in Washington. The Senate should scuttle this nomination and Biden should pick someone who prefers building bridges to bludgeoning foes.”
The 63-year-old represented an insular, urban Los Angeles district for a quarter-century — where Biden received over 80% of the presidential vote.
Though even the New York Times called Becerra a surprising choice 10 weeks ago, the pick appeased identity politics-obsessed groups, who demanded Biden to select more Hispanic nominees.
Becerra also panders to the Planned Parenthood contingent. Three years ago, he filed felony charges against pro-life activists who went undercover to expose Planned Parenthood’s practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser released a statement upon his nomination in December, arguing that Becerra “is aggressively pro-abortion and a foe of free speech.”
Becerra also once said he favored decriminalizing illegal immigration.
Several noteworthy senators, including presidential hopeful Tom Cotton, also slammed the pick, calling Becerra a “disaster.”
An official close to Cotton, who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity last week, said, “There really is a consensus that Becerra is the worst of the nominees. Our most moderate members and our most conservative members feel it will be hard to stop any of these nominees, but if there is one, Becerra ought to be the one who goes down.”