Xavier Becerra is confirmed to lead Health and Human Services, solidifying four Latinos in Biden’s Cabinet
The former California Attorney General, who famously sued the Trump Administration over 100 times, is officially the next HHS Secretary
The Senate was already poised to confirm former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services after garnering thin Republican support from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), but it became official on March 18.
While bipartisan support was razor-thin, it proved to be enough in the final vote of 50-49.
I’m honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate. Thank you. I’m ready to get to work at @HHSgov.
— Xavier Becerra (@XavierBecerra) March 18, 2021
Before Becerra’s confirmation, GOP leaders had clung to the argument that Becerra’s inexperience in the Health sector defined his overall lack of qualification for the job.
Senators like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) made Becerra’s confirmation proceedings a proxy fight over several key issues he has been vocal about in his past, including abortion, healthcare for all, health benefits for undocumented immigrants, as well as California’s COVID-19 response.
Before his first day of testifying before the Senate 75 GOP members of Congress signed a separate letter on Feb. 23, urging Biden to withdraw Becerra’s nomination on the premise that he is “not up to the challenges we face.”
Several GOP organizations also launched a multi-million dollar adertising campaign just weeks before his confirmation in a last-ditch effort to undermine Biden’s Health and Human Services pick, who has been outspoken on his support for the Affordable Care Act, and pro-choice policies.
But the efforts, while substantial, proved too late.
Senator @AlexPadilla4CA, the first Latino U.S. Senator from California, advocating for AG @XavierBecerra to become the first Latino Secretary of Health and Human Services.
This is what building Latino political power is all about.https://t.co/CqjQpeNlOD
— Nathalie Rayes (@NathalieRayes) March 18, 2021
On the day before his confirmation, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), former California Secretary of State and longtime colleague of Becerra’s made his case, again, for Becerra’s aptitude for the position, emphasizing his connection to communities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically in California.
“Throughout his career, Xavier Becerra has always fought to improve the lives of his constituents. As the first Latino Attorney General of California, he made it his mission to tackle the structural inequalities in our healthcare system. As has been referenced already, Attorney General Becerra was the leading force behind the lawsuit to protect the Affordable Care Act,” Padilla said on the Senate floor.
“Yes, he had the audacity to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions and for those suffering from a mental illness. Over the course of this past year, he has also fought to protect frontline healthcare workers from further exposure to COVID-19,” he continued.
Becerra is now the first Latino HHS secretary, tasked with the daunting mission of aiding the Biden administration on COVID-19 related policies, as well as carrying-out Biden’s promised healthcare expansion. This, while the latest version of progressive dems’ Medicare for all legislation was reintroduced on March 17.
It will be interesting to see how Becerra will lead the HHS, as he has previously made outspoken remarks in support for Medicare For All, but has since made no such remarks of support since his consideration for Biden’s Cabinet.
The Biden-backed Affordable Care Act will likely be the HHS’s priority
With Becerra confirmed, he joins Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Small Business Administration leader Isabel Guzman to make four Latinos in Biden’s Cabinet. It was the minimum, and not groundbreaking in it’s sum, but it aids his campaign promise of composing a Cabinet that is representative of the Nation.