GOP working to block Biden’s health care pick; Dems unfazed

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President Joe Biden’s choose for well being secretary is going through two days of contentious Senate hearings

Xavier Becerra, now lawyer common of the nation’s most populous state, shall be grilled by two panels. Tuesday, it is the well being committee’s flip, adopted Wednesday by the Finance Committee, which is able to vote on sending Becerra’s nomination to the Senate ground. If confirmed, he’d be the primary Latino to go the Division of Well being and Human Providers, a $1.4 trillion company with a broad portfolio that features medical insurance packages, drug security and approvals, superior medical analysis and the welfare of kids.

Becerra, 63, represented Hispanic neighborhoods of Los Angeles within the U.S. Home for greater than 20 years earlier than changing into his state’s chief legislation enforcement officer, succeeding Vice President Kamala Harris after she gained election to the Senate. His politics are liberal however his model is low-key and oriented towards downside fixing. As a congressman he performed a behind-the-scenes function steering President Barack Obama’s well being care legislation by means of Democratic divisions within the Home.

Republican opposition has grown louder forward of his nomination hearings. On Monday, Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas launched a letter by which they requested Biden to withdraw the nomination, calling Becerra “unfit for any place of public belief.” Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has known as him “famously partisan.” And the political group Heritage Motion for America launched a cable and digital advert marketing campaign in opposition to Becerra.

Republicans say Becerra is a radical supporter of socialized drugs, abortion and curbs on spiritual liberty and that he has no medical expertise.

Democrats are shrugging it off.

Republicans are “simply flailing round,” Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon stated Monday. “They’ve finished their greatest to attempt to discover one thing that would stick by way of their opposition, however there’s no ‘there’ there.”

At a White Home briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated Becerra is a part of the staff that Biden wants to execute his COVID-19 response plan.

The pandemic is anticipated to dominate questioning on the Well being, Training, Labor and Pensions listening to on Tuesday. Senators of each events need to know in regards to the administration’s timetable for a return to near-normalcy, the progress of the vaccination marketing campaign, the outlook for reopening colleges, and the risk from extra aggressive virus mutations.

Becerra is anticipated to make use of as a lot of his time as doable to push Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 reduction plan, which is on monitor to move the Home however faces main political and procedural challenges within the Senate.

In some ways, Becerra was California’s early face of opposition to the Trump administration. He was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to interchange Harris and took over as lawyer common in early 2017 as Trump turned president.

Over 4 years, he filed 124 lawsuits, difficult the Trump administration on immigration, environmental and well being care insurance policies. His litigiousness and vocal resistance to Trump’s insurance policies may enable Republicans to color him as an excessively partisan determine. California took satisfaction in viewing itself because the resistance to Trump, and Becerra embodied that ethos.

Democrats say he is not exterior the mainstream of their celebration, which strongly helps ladies’s entry to abortion, and the place single-payer government-run well being look after all stays a preferred coverage place, even when Biden has made clear he does not help it.

Lack of medical expertise does not disqualify a nominee for HHS secretary, though it may be a plus. Current secretaries have included one physician but in addition a pharmaceutical govt, a White Home funds director and three governors.

Biden’s pandemic response is being coordinated from the White Home. Whereas Becerra can be an necessary participant, the administration’s decision-making construction is already in place. Becerra is anticipated to play a central in broader well being care coverage points, equivalent to increasing insurance coverage protection and attempting to curb prescription drug prices.

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Kathleen Ronayne, AP’s supervisory correspondent in Sacramento, contributed to this report.

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