President-elect Joe Biden on Monday introduced he’s nominating California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to guide the subsequent administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, a shock to many who believed the previous Democratic congressman can be chosen to go the Justice Department.
The number of Becerra — first reported by The New York Times and CNN on Sunday — is a victory for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which he used to guide. If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to carry the place of HHS secretary.
Biden on Monday additionally introduced his picks for a number of different key roles on his well being crew, together with bringing again Vivek Murthy as surgeon normal, nominating Dr. Rochelle Walensky to guide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and tapping Dr. Anthony Fauci to be his chief medical adviser on COVID-19.
“This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor, and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives, and back to their loved ones,” Biden mentioned in an announcement.
Latinx lawmakers had been urgent Biden to additional diversify his Cabinet and embrace extra Latinx illustration. Biden has picked Cuban American lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to run the Department of Homeland Security.
“Everybody’s eager to see a Cabinet that reflects America,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) mentioned in an interview with HuffPost final week. “It would be a huge missed opportunity and disappointment if President Biden failed us in that regard.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus referred to as on Biden final week to choose New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to guide HHS, saying the previous state well being secretary and solely Latina governor “has the vision and drive to see through large projects and effectively lead large organizations.”
But that chance fizzled Wednesday after a supply near the transition crew instructed reporters that Lujan Grisham was now not a front-runner for well being secretary and had turned down a proposal to guide Biden’s Interior Department.
Sen.-elect Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) confronted incoming White House chief of employees Ron Klain and different senior Biden officers for his or her therapy of Lujan Grisham in a name between transition leaders and caucus members on Thursday. Klain apologized for the leaks from the transition concerning the New Mexico governor, in response to a Democrat with information of the decision.
Dozens of caucus members sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday arguing for the president-elect to select both Becerra or Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez to be the U.S. legal professional normal. Becerra created a reputation for himself primarily on problems with felony justice and immigration, which might have made him an unsurprising selection for the Justice Department.
But the California legal professional normal additionally has a file on well being care, most just lately appearing because the main Democratic defender of the Affordable Care Act in opposition to the most recent lawsuit by Republican attorneys normal. In addition, he has helped lead his party’s charge for women’s health and defended LGBTQ entry to well being care by fighting the Trump administration’s “conscience rule,” which allowed well being suppliers to refuse therapy to sufferers for their very own ethical or spiritual causes.
“I’m not sure you could find anyone who has been a stronger defender of the ACA, access to reproductive health care and immigrant rights during the last four years,” Larry Levitt, government vp on the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, instructed HuffPost.
As California legal professional normal, Becerra has additionally aggressively cracked down on mergers and consolidations in well being care as a solution to push corporations to compete on costs. In 2018, he joined an antitrust lawsuit in opposition to Sutter Health accusing the corporate of utilizing its market energy to drive up well being care prices in Northern California. He secured a $575 million settlement from Sutter on the finish of 2019.
Becerra additionally sought and supported California legislation that will have given the state’s legal professional normal extra energy to evaluate mergers involving for-profit well being care suppliers. That laws didn’t move, however reformers have been hoping to attempt once more subsequent 12 months.
“Becerra was a health care champion in Congress and then he was very active as attorney general of California in using the tools of that office to protect people’s health care ― and deal with issues of cost, quality and equity,” Anthony Wright, government director of California’s statewide shopper advocacy group Health Access, instructed HuffPost.
“It went well beyond just checking the boxes of what he had to do,” Wright added. “He was very aggressive about it.”
Should Becerra grow to be secretary of HHS, he’ll lead a division that continues to be particularly essential throughout a pandemic that’s already killed more than 280,000 people in the country ― notably Black and brown individuals.
Becerra served 12 phrases in Congress, representing a part of Los Angeles earlier than changing into California’s first Latino legal professional normal in 2017. As a congressman, he was the primary Latino to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee and in addition led the House Democratic Caucus. He vigorously advocated for the Latinx group and labored to reform the immigration system, a mission he continued as state legal professional normal.
“He’s not a health policy wonk, but most HHS secretaries aren’t and don’t need to be,” Levitt mentioned. “He’s a seasoned political hand and shown an ability to speak to the public about complex health issues.”
Jonathan Cohn and Hayley Miller contributed reporting.
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