(Headline USA) California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the controversial choice to become President Joe Biden’s health secretary, was confirmed by a 50-49 vote Thursday after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, split with the GOP opposition to support him.
“There are, unfortunately, numerous nominees in the Biden administration who are either extreme or unqualified for the positions for which they have been nominated,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a floor speech Wednesday to oppose the confirmation.
“But of all of those nominees, I believe Mr. Becerra is the single worst Cabinet nominee put forward by Joe Biden to serve in the Cabinet,” he added.
The $1.4 trillion Health and Human Services Department encompasses health insurance programs, drug safety and approvals, advanced medical research, substance abuse treatment, and the welfare of children, including hundreds of Central American migrants arriving daily at the U.S.–Mexico border.
Collins, the sole GOP defector, is one of a handful of Republican senators who has expressed open support for abortion, an area in which Becerra is expected to pursue an aggressively leftist agenda.
“Although there are issues where I strongly disagree with Mr. Becerra, I believe he merits confirmation as HHS secretary,” Collins said. “I look forward to working with the department to achieve bipartisan results on behalf of the American people.”
But pro-life groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List, were among those who sounded the alarm.
“The Biden-Harris administration has dropped all semblance of the ‘unity’ they once promised,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.
“To carry out the Administration’s extreme abortion goals, Senate Democrats have pushed through Xavier Becerra to lead the federal agency at the center of determining abortion policy,” she continued. “The agenda he promises to champion is deeply out of step with public opinion.”
Becerra rose up the political ranks as a trial lawyer and far-left member of the House of Representatives before being appointed in late 2016 to replace current Vice President Kamala Harris as the state’s attorney general following her move to the Senate.
As California’s top lawman, Becerra relentlessly persecuted an order of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, waging legal challenges to force them to subsidize abortions against their religious believes, even despite Supreme Court rulings in their favor.
“Xavier Becerra’s only experience with healthcare is suing the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Cruz said, while calling on Democrat colleagues to join the opposition.
“Frankly, it should be a joke,” he said. “If a Republican president did this, a Republican Senate would discover the backbone to stand up and oppose it, and what I would say is it is sad not a single Democrat is willing to stand up to Joe Biden and say, ‘No, try again.'”
Much of the criticism leveled at Becerra—widely touted on the Left for being the “first Latino” health secretary—centered not only on his abject partisanship, but also his utter inexperience in the field of healthcare.
“The distinguishing feature of this nominee’s resume is not his expertise in health, medicine, or administration—that part of the resume is very brief,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “What stands out are Mr. Becerra’s commitment to partisan warfare and his far-left ideology.”
That inexperience has raised some alarm as the nation struggles to pull itself from the grips of the yearlong coronavirus pandemic, reliant in large part on the many agencies now under his purview:
- The Food and Drug Administration oversees vaccines and treatments.
- Much of the underlying scientific and medical research comes from the National Institutes of Health.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes the lead containing the spread of the virus and developing guidance to safely reopen schools and offices.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides insurance coverage for more than 1 in 3 Americans, including vulnerable seniors, as well as many children and low-income people.
“Having him lead the federal health department is bad news for all who have been praying for the pandemic to end,” said Sen. John Thune, R-SD, in a statement. “His record as chief lockdown enforcer in California poses a greater risk to churches than to the coronavirus.”
During his confirmation hearings Becerra tried to play down the controversies about his partisan record.
He acknowledged that Americans have deeply held differences on abortion. He pledged to follow the law—meaning that taxpayer money cannot be used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.
“I understand the enormous challenges before us and our solemn responsibility to be faithful stewards of an agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives,” Becerra said recently at his confirmation hearing. “I’m humbled by the task, and I’m ready for it.”
Becerra also will now be the point man on Biden’s radical health care agenda, which includes moving forward on a variation of the socialized “Medicare for All” plan, deputizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and tackling persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system.
“Many of the assets that will be important to this effort are in HHS, and he’ll have the key coordinating role within the department,” said Kathleen Sebelius, who led HHS during much of President Barack Obama’s administration. “It adds a force multiplier and expertise to the efforts already under way.”
Prescription drugs and health insurance will lead to major legislative battles. Democrats will likely resort to using the budgetary “reconciliation” tactic they relied on to muscle the COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate.
Republican opponents said the $1.9 trillion boondogle included about 90% pork projects from the leftist agenda and only about 10% actual relief.
Perhaps mindful of that spending spree, powerful lobbying groups in the healthcare industry celebrated the arrival of Becerra. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America congratulated him on his confirmation and said it looks forward to a collaborative working relationship.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, downplayed the objections to Becerra, claiming they were “almost verge on the ridiculous.”
Schumer said Republicans “complained loudly that he had no direct experience as a medical professional, even though Republicans voted in lockstep” to make pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar health secretary under President Donald Trump.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press