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Biden’s health secretary chooses Xavier Becerra for controversial Senate hearings

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s candidate for the powerful Department of Health and Human Services prepares for two days of contentious hearings in a divided Senate, with allies deploying to defend him as Republicans rally for submit an application.

If confirmed, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former congressman, will have the arduous task of leading administrative policy on the coronavirus pandemic and orchestrating Biden’s goal of providing healthcare to more Americans. He would also be the first secretary of the Latin HHS.

Becerra will appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, or HELP, on Tuesday morning before facing the Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The two committees, which have jurisdiction over health care matters, are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The HELP committee includes three potentially crucial Republican votes, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, as well as mobilizers like Rand Paul of Kentucky, who may be looking to stir the pot.

Becerra has spoken to nearly half of the Senate, including Collins, Murkowski and Joe Manchin, DW.Va., said a person familiar with the conversations. Manchin, who could be a key Democratic voter, recently spoke out against Biden’s choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, casting his confirmation in doubt.

“I understand the enormous challenges we face and our solemn responsibility to be faithful directors of an agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives,” Becerra will say in her opening address while highlighting the story of immigration of his family from Mexico. “I am honored by the task. And I am ready for it.”

HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., Will praise Becerra as an “executive leader” who fought for the health care of patients and families.

“We all want the pandemic to end – which means we should all want the Biden-Harris administration to be successful, and we should recruit qualified candidates like Attorney General Becerra as quickly as possible,” Murray said during its opening. statement, according to prepared remarks from his office.

Becerra’s Senate Case Will Include Her “Decades Of Health Policy Experience” As A Member Of Congress, Her Work On Drug Prices And The Confrontation Of Opioid Manufacturers And Her Fight To Protect The Law on affordable care in court, said a member of the Biden confirmation team who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

It won’t be easy. Becerra is among the few nominees in Biden that Republican opponents are focused on and believe they have a chance to block.

A letter Monday led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which was signed by 10 other Senate Republicans, expressed “serious concerns” over Becerra’s appointment, citing his past support for “Medicare for All” and its opinions on the liberalization of the immigration system. and protect abortion rights and its skepticism about exemptions from laws based on religion.

“We call on you to put our country above radical partisan goals by withdrawing the appointment of Mr Becerra as secretary of the HHS,” reads the letter, which was co-signed by dozens of House Republicans. .

Most of the 11 Senate signatories don’t sit on any of the relevant committees, but they will have votes in the full room, where Becerra will need 51 votes. If the Senate also divides, it can be confirmed by the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden’s team touted a wave of endorsements or glowing statements from progressive groups like abortion rights group NARAL and Planned Parenthood, medical industry organizations like the American Hospital Association, and prominent figures as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Biden transition spokesperson Andrew Bates said: “Xavier Becerra has decades of experience in health policy, has worked with Republicans and Democrats to expand access to Covid treatments and s ‘attacking opioid manufacturers while running the nation’s largest state justice department, and fighting record to cut costs for patients. “

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