Senate confirms Xavier Becerra as HHS secretary in narrow 50-49 vote

Amid significant opposition from Republican lawmakers, another of President Joe Biden’s more controversial Cabinet picks was approved for a key administration post this week.

By a narrow 50-49 margin, the Senate voted Thursday to confirm former congressman and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), as ABC News reported.

Becerra is the first Latino to lead HHS and is seen by many conservatives as a staunch partisan likely to take aim at a series of Trump-era regulations and to promote controversial policies such as Medicare-for-All.

Senate Democrats were unanimous in their support of Becerra’s nomination, and they were joined by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who was the only GOP lawmaker to vote in favor of his confirmation. Republicans stood in opposition to the Cabinet pick for a wide array of reasons, including concerns over Becerra’s lack of health care-related experience, his positions on immigration, and his stance on abortion.

Leading the Republican outcry against Becerra in advance of his confirmation was Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who ran digital ads against his nomination saying, “Xavier Becerra is a radical liberal with no real public health experience besides enforcing California’s disastrous lockdowns,” as Fox News reported separately.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) added his voice to the nominee’s critics, making pointed reference to Becerra’s involvement in litigation seeking to void an exemption to the Obamacare contraception mandate that had been granted to the Little Sisters of the Poor:

Becerra isn’t right for the job because in the middle of a global pandemic the Department of Health and Human Services needs to be focused on health and human services. Becerra is a culture warrior who made his name in bloody-knuckles politics by bullying nuns.

Fox News also reported that Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also joined in lamenting the nomination, stating:

There’s a reason Mr. Becerra could not get one single Republican vote to move out of committee. It is because he is such a thoroughly partisan actor with so little subject-matter expertise and such a demonstrated history of hostility toward basic values like the freedom of conscience.

There is nothing about Mr. Becerra’s record in Congress or in California to suggest that he is the best possible person to run the Department of Health and Human Services in the middle of a once-in-a-generation viral pandemic.

In a stark assessment of Becerra’s nomination and the potential implications of his confirmation, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) opined: “We have seen a lot of bad nominations from President Biden, but Xavier Becerra is one of the worst,” adding:

This was not a nomination to make the country healthier and safer, it was a nomination to weaponize a massive bureaucracy to carry out the radical left’s woke agenda.

Though perennial Senate swing voter Joe Manchin (D-WV) claimed that Becerra provided him with personal assurances of “his dedication to working with members on both sides of the aisle,” such a pledge seems to stand in stark contrast to the newly-minted secretary’s career strategy to date, giving conservatives real cause for concern.