President Biden’s nominee for well being secretary, Xavier Becerra, will seem earlier than a Senate committee Tuesday morning, the place he’s anticipated to face powerful questions from Republicans who’re attempting to color him as an extremist and to make use of his affirmation as a political cudgel towards Democrats up for re-election in 2022.
If confirmed, he’ll instantly face a frightening process in main the division at a important second, throughout a pandemic that has claimed half 1,000,000 lives and brought a very devastating toll on folks of shade. He can be the primary Latino to function secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. Becerra, a former member of Congress who’s now legal professional common of California, lacks direct expertise as a well being skilled. But 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 Affordable 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 assist 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 put up that featured a political commercial focusing on Democrats who assist Mr. Becerra’s affirmation.
“Any Senator supporting him will pay a price with voters,” Mr. Cotton wrote.
The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, issued a press release on Monday signed by dozens of conservative leaders, together with a number of former members of Congress, complaining that Mr. Becerra had a “troubling record” with respect to “policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious liberty.”
They cited particularly his vote towards banning “late-term abortion,” and accused him of utilizing his function as legal professional common “to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood,” a bunch 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 attempting interval. In a press release, Senator Patty Murray, who will preside over Tuesday’s listening to as chairwoman of the Senate well being committee, stated Mr. Becerra had “proven himself as an executive leader” and spotlighted his dedication to social justice.
“He has held companies accountable for flouting Covid-19 safety rules and putting workers at risk,” Ms. Murray stated. And, she added, “he has worked throughout his career to advocate on behalf of communities of color across health, immigration, education and more.”
Heading into Tuesday’s listening to, Mr. Becerra has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill; as of Monday he had met with no less than 40 senators. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden transition, referred to as him a “tested, qualified leader” who has “decades of health policy experience,” together with “a strong record of fighting to lower costs for patients.”
Tuesday’s session would be the first of two affirmation hearings held this week by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. On Thursday, the panel will think about the nominations of Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon common and Dr. Rachel Levine for assistant secretary of well being.
If the Senate approves, Dr. Murthy would reprise his function as surgeon common beneath former President Barack Obama, and Dr. Levine would turn into the primary overtly transgender official to win Senate affirmation.