The Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra to be Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary last week on a 50-49 vote. Becerra, California’s Attorney General, will be the first Latino to hold the Cabinet position.
As HHS secretary, he will play a crucial role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. neared 540,000 COVID-19 deaths last week, according to data from John Hopkins University.
In February, Becerra faced two days of contentious Senate hearings, where he stressed that he wishes to work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve the ambitious goals President Joe Biden has set to battle COVID-19, including reaching a milestone of 100 million vaccinations in the administration’s first 100 days, “safely and equitably.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that Becerra “has decades of standing up for working and middle-class Americans in Congress, fighting to protect and expand Medicare, Medicaid, and working to safeguard our health care system.”
The core components of HHS are the boots-on-the-ground part of the government’s coronavirus response. The Food and Drug Administration oversees vaccines and treatments, while much of the underlying scientific and medical research comes from the National Institutes of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes the lead in detecting and containing the spread of diseases.
As California’s attorney general, Becerra filed more than 100 lawsuits against the previous administration on a multitude of issues. He led a coalition of Democratic states defending Obamacare from the previous administration’s efforts to overturn it, a legal case that is awaiting a Supreme Court decision this year.
Becerra was one of the highest-ranking Latinos in Congress and represented parts of Los Angeles for 24 years before he was appointed California attorney general by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 to fill the vacancy left when Vice President Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2018, California voters elected Becerra to a full four-year term as attorney general.
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®