President Biden’s nominee for well being secretary, Xavier Becerra, appeared earlier than a Senate committee Tuesday morning, the place he’s dealing with robust questions from Republicans who’re making an attempt to color him as an extremist and to make use of his affirmation as a political cudgel in opposition to Democrats up for re-election in 2022.
If confirmed, he’ll instantly face a frightening job in main the division at a vital second, throughout a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and brought a very devastating toll on people of color. He can be the primary Latino to function secretary of the federal Division of Well being and Human Companies.
Mr. Becerra, a former member of Congress who’s now legal professional basic of California, lacks direct expertise as a well being skilled. However he took a deep curiosity in well being coverage whereas in Washington, and has extra lately been on the forefront of authorized efforts on well being care, main 20 states and the District of Columbia in a marketing campaign to guard the Reasonably priced Care Act from being dismantled by Republicans.
Republicans and their allies within the conservative and anti-abortion actions have seized on Mr. Becerra’s protection of the A.C.A. in addition to his help for abortion rights. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, took to Twitter on Monday, the place he branded Mr. Becerra an “unqualified radical” in a submit that featured a political commercial focusing on Democrats who help Mr. Becerra’s affirmation.
“Any Senator supporting him pays a worth with voters,” Mr. Cotton wrote.
The Conservative Motion Venture, an advocacy group, issued an announcement on Monday signed by dozens of conservative leaders, together with a number of former members of Congress, complaining that Mr. Becerra had a “troubling report” with respect to “insurance policies referring to the sanctity of life, human dignity and non secular liberty.”
They cited particularly his vote in opposition to banning “late-term abortion,” and accused him of utilizing his position as legal professional basic “to tip the scales in favor of Deliberate Parenthood,” a gaggle that advocates abortion rights.
Democrats are emphasizing Mr. Becerra’s expertise main one of many nation’s largest justice departments by way of an particularly making an attempt interval. In an announcement, Senator Patty Murray, who will preside over Tuesday’s listening to as chairwoman of the Senate well being committee, stated Mr. Becerra had “confirmed himself as an government chief” and spotlighted his dedication to social justice.
“He has held corporations accountable for flouting Covid-19 security guidelines and placing employees in danger,” Ms. Murray stated. And, she added, “he has labored all through his profession to advocate on behalf of communities of shade throughout well being, immigration, training and extra.”
Heading into Tuesday’s listening to, Mr. Becerra has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill; as of Monday he had met with at the very least 40 senators. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden transition, referred to as him a “examined, certified chief” who has “many years of well being coverage expertise,” together with “a robust report of combating to decrease prices for sufferers.”
Tuesday’s session was the primary of two affirmation hearings held this week by the Senate Committee on Well being, Schooling, Labor and Pensions. On Thursday, the panel will take into account the nominations of Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon basic and Dr. Rachel Levine for assistant secretary of well being.
If the Senate approves, Dr. Murthy would reprise his position as surgeon basic underneath former President Barack Obama, and Dr. Levine would turn out to be the primary brazenly transgender official to win Senate affirmation.