GOP working to block Biden's health care pick

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (February 23, 2021) — President Joe Biden's pick for health secretary is facing two days of contentious Senate hearings. Republicans are portraying the Californian as unfit. But Democrats are accusing the GOP of playing politics despite the pandemic.

California's attorney general, Xavier Becerra, will be grilled by two panels beginning Tuesday. Republicans say he's a radical, but Democrats shrug that off as "flailing." If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

The $1.4 trillion agency carries a broad portfolio that includes health insurance programs, drug safety and approvals, advanced medical research and the welfare of children.

Becerra, now attorney general of the nation's most populous state, will be grilled by two panels. Tuesday, it's the health committee's turn, followed Wednesday by the Finance Committee, which will vote on sending Becerra's nomination to the Senate floor.

Becerra is expected to use as much of his time as possible to push Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, which is on track to pass the House but faces major political and procedural challenges in the Senate.

Republican opposition has grown louder ahead of his nomination hearings. On Monday, Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas released a letter in which they asked Biden to withdraw the nomination, calling Becerra “unfit for any position of public trust.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has called him “famously partisan.” And the political group Heritage Action for America launched a cable and digital ad campaign against Becerra.

In many ways, Becerra was California’s early face of opposition to the Trump administration. He was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris and took over as attorney general in early 2017 as Trump became president.

Over four years, he filed 124 lawsuits, challenging the Trump administration on immigration, environmental and health care policies. His litigiousness and vocal resistance to Trump’s policies could allow Republicans to paint him as an overly partisan figure. California took pride in viewing itself as the resistance to Trump, and Becerra embodied that ethos.

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