WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s decide for well being secretary, Xavier Becerra, faces two days of contentious Senate hearings. Republicans are portraying the Californian as unfit, however Democrats are unfazed, accusing the GOP of taking part in politics regardless of the coronavirus pandemic.
Becerra, now lawyer basic of the nation’s most populous state, shall be grilled by two panels. Tuesday, it’s the well being committee’s flip, adopted Wednesday by the Finance Committee, which is able to 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 Providers, a $1.4 trillion company with a broad portfolio that features medical insurance packages, drug security and approvals, superior medical analysis and the welfare of kids.
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 legislation enforcement officer, succeeding Vice President Kamala Harris after she received election to the Senate. His politics are liberal however his fashion is low-key and oriented towards downside fixing. As a congressman he performed a behind-the-scenes position steering President Barack Obama’s well being care legislation by way of 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 by 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 referred to as him “famously partisan.” And the political group Heritage Motion for America launched a cable and digital advert marketing campaign in opposition to Becerra.
Republicans say Becerra is a radical supporter of socialized drugs, 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 by way of 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 must execute his COVID-19 response plan.
The pandemic is predicted to dominate questioning on the Well being, Training, 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 menace from extra aggressive virus mutations.
Becerra is predicted to make use of as a lot of his time as potential to push Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid plan, which is on monitor to move 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 lawyer basic 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 may permit Republicans to color him as an excessively partisan determine. California took delight in viewing itself because the resistance to Trump, and Becerra embodied that ethos.
Democrats say he’s not outdoors the mainstream of their occasion, which strongly helps girls’s entry to abortion, and the place single-payer government-run well being take care of all stays a preferred coverage place, even when Biden has made clear he doesn’t help it.
Lack of medical expertise doesn’t disqualify a nominee for HHS secretary, though it may be a plus. Latest secretaries have included one physician but additionally a pharmaceutical government, 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 predicted 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.
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