If confirmed by the United States Senate, Becerra would play a vital role in the government’s response to a pandemic that killed more than 282,000 Americans on Sunday night.
Becerra, a former member of Congress, emerged as the leading candidate for the key role after excluding other candidates with more expertise in healthcare.
Becerra is the first Latino to serve as California attorney general and has been in office since 2017. He was a fierce opponent of President Donald Trump, and the state of California has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the president and his government guidelines. More than half of the lawsuits concern environmental policy, according to the Los Angeles Times, which the Trump administration either set up or removed. Becerra also led the fight to protect the Delayed Action on Child Arrivals Program, an Obama-era program that Trump sought to abolish and that protected certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation Has.
One of Becerra’s most prominent health care roles recently was as the lead defender of the Affordable Care Act in court.
With the Trump administration joining a coalition of Republican Attorney General fighting to invalidate the landmark healthcare reform bill, Becerra has spearheaded a group of Democratic attorneys general arguing why the bill remains in effect. The question is whether the reduction by Congress of the penalty for lack of health insurance to zero made the individual mandate unconstitutional, which would result in the entire law falling.
“COVID-19 has made one thing undeniable: We need to protect affordable care law – lives depend on it,” Becerra said last month, just before the Supreme Court heard oral statements on the Texas-based case. “As if on cue, the Trump administration is unconcernedly marching on to dismantle the ACA and deprive Americans of their health care. We will do everything we can to defeat this unprecedented assault by a sitting president on critical federal law.”
In particular, Becerra has indicated that the Affordable Care Act covers 20 million Americans through the expansion of Medicaid or the Obamacare exchanges, guarantees the protection of millions of people with pre-existing conditions and funds state and local public health systems.
“Becerra has addressed some of the major health issues he would face as HHS secretary, including revitalizing the ACA and curbing healthcare costs,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. He “has a proven ability to speak to the public about the complexities of health problems, which is an important part of the job.”
In 2018, Becerra filed a lawsuit against Sutter Health, a system of 24 hospitals and more than 12,000 doctors in Northern California, for using anti-competitive practices to consolidate market power, resulting in higher healthcare prices. The attorney general reached a $ 575 million settlement a year ago requiring Sutter to change some of his practices.
Last week, Becerra filed comments on behalf of a coalition of attorneys-general opposed to a new proposal by the Trump administration to automatically override HHS regulations, which the agency does not review within two years.
“This rule is an attempt by the outgoing Trump administration to make it more difficult for President-elect Biden and his new administration to put in place useful guidelines that will guide our country through the pandemic,” he said.
Affordable Care Act advocates praised Biden’s election on Sunday night.
“Attorney General Xavier Becerra has all the skills and qualifications necessary to implement President-elect Biden’s bold plans to improve access to quality care, bring down skyrocketing prescription drug prices, make health care more affordable, Medicare and to empower Medicaid and work to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control, “said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, who has sought to counter GOP attacks on the law.
Becerra served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the US House of Representatives and held a number of leadership positions. He was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, chairman of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress, and a senior member of the Social Security Subcommittee. He was also the first Latino to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.
He was on the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Health, where he worked on key health programs like Medicare.
He also served a tenure in California legislature and is a former assistant attorney general with the California Department of Justice.
Becerra has also been considered serving as the U.S. attorney general, CNN previously reported.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico, Gina Raimondo, governor of Rhode Island, and Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, were also named as potential candidates for the post, CNN previously reported.
Biden had come under pressure from members of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress to appoint Lujan Grisham, the first Democratic Latina to be elected governor of the United States, to head HHS. Members of the caucus have also pushed for either Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to serve as US attorney general. The push was part of a wider effort to pressure Biden to nominate multiple Latino or Latina candidates for top positions in his administration.
Members of the caucus also met with heads of the Biden transition team last week and expressed frustration at how they believe Lujan Grisham had been treated in the cabinet selection process. They posed problems with what they said were leaks from the transition team, the governor turned down a cabinet position to run the Home Office and said the leaks embarrassed the governor.
Biden’s transition team is expected to announce key members of the president-elect’s health team earlier this week, new White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
It is expected that Biden Dr. Vivek Murthy appoints US surgeon general, two sources familiar with the matter and confirmed to CNN. Murthy, an internal medicine physician, was a U.S. surgeon general under the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017.
The president-elect told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview last week that he was Dr. Anthony asked Fauci to maintain his role as director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases and to serve as senior medical advisor to his administration.
CNN reported that Biden has chosen Jeffrey Zients to be his coronavirus coordinator at the White House. Zients was a top economic advisor under President Barack Obama and is credited with resurging Obamacare registration website Healthcare.gov after it was plagued by problems and crashed shortly after its launch in 2013.
This story has been updated with additional information.