Despite his calls for bipartisanship and unity in the aftermath of the contentious 2020 election, President Joe Biden has shown little of either in terms of his selections for key Cabinet posts.
In the face of rather stiff opposition from Republicans, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday by the narrowest of margins in a 50-49 vote, as Fox News reported.
Poised to become the first Latino to take the helm at HHS, Becerra previously spent 12 terms in Congress and currently serves as the attorney general of California and is viewed by many in the GOP as an intensely partisan progressive who will likely aim to reverse numerous Trump-era policies and enact sweeping health care system reforms, as Politico noted.
While Democrats unanimously voted in support of Becerra’s confirmation, Republicans – with the exception of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine – opposed the nomination for reasons ranging from his lack of experience in the health care sector, his stance on abortion rights, positions on immigration, and declared support for Medicare-for-all, according to Fox News.
The fierce resistance to Becerra’s confirmation among some members of the GOP was exemplified by that of Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who took the unusual step of buying and running digital advertisements targeting Becerra in states where sitting Democrat senators are seen as vulnerable in 2022, as Fox News separately reported.
“Becerra supports Bernie’s government takeover of your health care, eliminating your employer provided coverage. You can’t trust Xavier Becerra with your health care. Tell your senator to vote no,” the spots declared, with Cotton’s campaign website also arguing:
Xavier Becerra is a radical liberal with no real public health experience besides enforcing California’s disastrous lockdowns.
If confirmed, Xavier Becerra will face a reckoning from voters in the next election.
As ABC News noted, Cotton was not alone in his consternation over Becerra’s nomination, with Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opining last week:
There’s a reason Mr. Becerra could not get one single Republican vote to move out of committee. It is because he is such a thoroughly partisan actor with so little subject-matter expertise and such a demonstrated history of hostility toward basic values like the freedom of conscience.
There is nothing about Mr. Becerra’s record in Congress or in California to suggest that he is the best possible person to run the Department of Health and Human Services in the middle of a once-in-a-generation viral pandemic.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was even more biting in his critique of Becerra’s qualifications – or lack thereof – for this pivotal administration post, remarking:
The Department of HHS is in the process of distributing and administering hundreds of millions of vaccines. Mr. Becerra has never so much as distributed french fries at McDonald’s.
Becerra represents the 20th Biden Cabinet pick to be confirmed thus far, and his ascension to the HHS role only adds credence to the conclusion that this administration is quickly giving lie to any prior pretense of moderation.