California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Tuesday faces the first of two hearings this week on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary, with Republicans mobilizing to characterize Becerra’s policy positions as extreme.
Among the issues that will take center stage are his support for providing insurance to people here illegally, as well as his support while in Congress for abortion rights and Medicare for All.
Republicans are also expected to make him defend the more than 100 lawsuits California filed challenging Trump administration policies as the state’s attorney general. He appears before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
Only the Finance committee will vote on the nomination before sending it to the full Senate.
In a Senate divided 50-50, Democrats could confirm Becerra if the caucus sticks together and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the tie.
But the National Review reported Monday that moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is undecided on whether to support Becerra, putting his nomination in question.
Conservative groups see Becerra as one of Biden’s most vulnerable nominees and have already lined up in opposition, calling his policy positions radical and saying during the pandemic Biden should have picked a doctor to lead the agency.
Becerra was among the small group of lawmakers who helped write the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and access to healthcare was a signature issue during his two dozen years in the House. Abortion rights and child advocacy groups have lined up in support of Becerra.
When he became California attorney general in 2017, Becerra led the state’s efforts to block Republicans from repealing the Affordable Care Act and fought with a nonprofit led by Catholic nuns who sought an exemption from a provision in the law requiring employer-sponsored health plans to cover the cost of contraceptives.
Only three of the 12 previous secretaries of the department have had medical degrees. Becerra would be the first Latino secretary of Health and Human Services.