Monday, April 15, 2024

Biden’s Candidate to Lead Health & Human Services Goes Before Senate Committees

Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s choice for the nation’s top health official is testifying before Senate committees today and tomorrow as Republicans attempt to attack the nomination.

Becerra is California’s first Latino Attorney General and was chosen by Biden to be his Health & Human Services Secretary in early December. Becerra, who would be the first Latino HHS secretary if confirmed, is defending his health care experience in his current jobs and in his longtime tenure in the House of Representatives.

Republicans are attacking him on his lack of direct health care experience and his support for abortion among other liberal policies. If confirmed as secretary, he would play a key role in combating the pandemic, which has now claimed more than 500,000 American lives.

In his opening statement, Becerra addressed how he, as attorney general, responded to the pandemic in his own state. Becerra said that HHS has a central role in meeting the ambitious goals Biden set to battle the pandemic and doing so in a bipartisan fashion. He also stressed in upbringing as a son of a Mexican immigrant, his father’s recent passing and his history expanding health care access.

One of his highest-profile health care roles recently has been as a chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. He has battled the health care industry to keep costs down for consumers and in 2018, he filed a lawsuit against Sutter Health, a system of 24 hospitals and more than 12,000 doctors in Northern California, for using anti-competitive practices to consolidate market power, resulting in higher health care prices.

Becerra secured a $575 million settlement that requires Sutter to change some of its practices. In addition, he has been outspoken on the fight for women’s health, the rights of undocumented immigrants, and his support for Medicare of All, making him a target for attacks from Republicans and potentially more conservative Democrats.

Republicans have been targeting Becerra since his selection was announced. Arizona Senator Tom Cotton launched a digital advertisement in Georgia and New Hampshire tying Becerra to California’s response to the pandemic while pressuring any lawmakers up for election next cycle. Cotton has been campaigning against Becerra for months, highlighting multiple issues with the nominee, from keeping California’s schools, churches and small businesses closed to his support for abortion rights.