Mar 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms Xavier Becerra to lead HHS

Xavier Becerra during a confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee in February.

Xavier Becerra during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee in February. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 50-49 on Thursday to confirm Xavier Becerra as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Why it matters: Becerra, the first Latino to lead the department, is now in charge of overseeing the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic while executing much of the Biden administration's health agenda.

Context: Becerra was one of President Biden's most controversial nominees. He sued the Trump administration more than 100 times while attorney general for the state of California, and Republicans, who largely opposed the confirmation, said he was not qualified for the job.

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the lone GOP vote for Becerra.
  • To advance Becerra's nomination, the full Senate voted last week to bypass the Finance Committee, which had become deadlocked over his nomination.
  • Republicans have criticized his lack of health care experience and his past support for Medicare for All and abortion, while Democrats were concerned that delays in confirming Becerra could hamper the U.S. pandemic response.

Of note: Becerra's confirmation also leaves another appointment up to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

  • Newsom appointed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President Kamala Harris' Senate seat and Assembly Member Shirley Weber to replace Padilla.
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