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AG Xavier Becerra could make history as the first Latino to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Photo: The Washington Post
AG Xavier Becerra could make history as the first Latino to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Photo: The Washington Post

Xavier Becerra makes history again as Biden’s pick to run Health and Human Services

Becerra’s nomination brings more than representation. He will likely bring women’s rights and environmental justice into the equation. 

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made headlines earlier in 2020, when California made history for suing President Donald Trump over 100 times.

Now, on Dec. 4, President-elect Joe Biden made the surprise decision of selecting Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If confirmed, he would be the first Latino to run the department.

The announcement comes at a critical time, when Latinos are not only underrepresented within key White House positions, but also the most-affected demographic throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. 

But the selection goes beyond representation. 

Becerra has long been an outspoken supporter of the Affordable Care Act, — even going as far as to say he would “absolutely” support Medicare for all in the past — and environmental issues, and Women's rights — all critical issues he will have to confront in his new position (if confirmed).

However, a recent New York Times article reported he would not outwardly advocate for Medicare for all within Biden’s cabinet, as the president-elect has rejected the movement progressive legislators have pushed for. 

Becerra served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles. During his time there, he was the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, where he gained experience working with health care as a senior member of its health subcommittee. Becerra also led the House Democratic Caucus.

In 2017,  he became Attorney General of California, where over four years, he led legal battles across the nation with particular focus on legislation against women’s reproductive rights he believed went against Roe v. Wade.

Becerra in charge of HHS would also be a huge win in battling the Climate Crisis. In recent years, California has found itself as a leader in environmental measures, and he’s been a big part of the push.

In 2018, he created an environmental justice bureau — the first of its kind — focusing on the disproportionate effects of pollution and other adverse effects of the climate crisis on certain communities — largely BIPOC.

In his potential new position, Becerra is expected to bring environmental justice and the climate crisis as two of the pivotal issues affecting health in this day and age. 

“As Attorney General, Becerra led the charge to defend the Affordable Care Act, lower prescription drug costs, and protect immigrant families,” wrote Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) in a statement as Chairman for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

The CHC has been urging the Biden-Harris administration to appoint at least five Latinos to the Cabinet, including Latinas in prominent positions. So far, the incoming administration has nominated Becerra and the potential first Latino to serve as Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.

It has yet to nominate a Latina for a top cabinet position.

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