(Headline USA) Presidential race leader Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting an opponent of religious liberty and individual freedom in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response.
According to Fox News, Republicans are already signaling their opposition to Becerra:
“Xavier Becerra spent his career attacking pro-life Americans and tried to force crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortions,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote on Twitter. “He’s been a disaster in California and he is unqualified to lead HHS. I’ll be voting no, and Becerra should be rejected by the Senate.”
Becerra has also defended California’s infringements on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights, and defended the fraud-friendly ballot harvesting practice by Democrats but not when Republicans do it. He has also sued “gig-economy” companies such as Uber and Lyft over a state law that forces them to treat contractors as employees, against their will.
Separately, Biden picked a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And he announced a new advisory role for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.
If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra would head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.
A former senior House Democrat, Becerra said that in Congress he helped pass the Affordable Care Act and as California’s attorney general he has defended it.
“As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care — through this pandemic and beyond,” he tweeted on Monday.
Biden’s selection of Becerra and Walensky was announced early Monday in a press release from the transition office. Biden also announced other top members of his health care team, though some posts remain unfilled.
Becerra, as California’s top lawyer, has led the coalition of Democratic states defending Obamacare from the Trump administration’s latest effort to overturn it, a legal case awaiting a Supreme Court decision next year.
As a U.S. representative, he was involved in steering the Obama health law through Congress in 2009 and 2010. At the time he would tell reporters that one of his primary motivations was having tens of thousands of uninsured people in his Southern California district.
Overseeing the coronavirus response will be the most complicated task he has ever contemplated. By next year, the U.S. will be engaged in a mass vaccination campaign, the groundwork for which has been laid under the Trump administration. Although the vaccines appear very promising, and no effort has been spared to plan for their distribution, it’s impossible to tell yet how well things will go when it’s time to get shots in the arms of millions of Americans.
Businessman Jeff Zients was named as Biden’s White House coronavirus coordinator. An economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, Zients also led the rescue of the HealthCare.gov website after its disastrous launch in 2013. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force, is returning to his post as the nation’s doctor, with broader responsibilities.
Biden announced Fauci will be the president’s chief medical adviser, while continuing as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
As CDC director, Walensky would replace Dr. Robert Redfield.
Walensky is a leading infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and has devoted her career to combatting HIV/AIDS.
“I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC,” she tweeted on Monday. “We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.”
Becerra’s experience running the bureaucratic apparatus of the California attorney general’s office helped seal the pick for Biden, said a person familiar with the process but not authorized to comment publicly.
Early in California’s coronavirus response, Becerra defended broad shutdowns Gov. Gavin Newsom had put in place to curtail the pandemic, including unconstitutional limits on religious gatherings. Three churches in Southern California had sued Newsom, Becerra and other state officials because in-person church services had been halted.
Previously Becerra had served for more than a decade in Congress, representing parts of Los Angeles County. He had also served in the California state assembly after attending law school at Stanford.
His mother was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and emigrated to the U.S. after marrying his father, a native of Sacramento, California, who had grown up in Mexico.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.