Biden Strikes Gold with Pick of Golden State’s Xavier Becerra to Head HHS December 10, 2020
While non-reality Demagogue Donald and his alternative universe GOP chicken gang loudly but vainly squawk about Trump winning the 11/03/2020 presidential election, true President-elect Joe Biden rightfully ignores them. Biden methodically works on assembling a stellar crew of Cabinet and staff appointees who resemble the real America in racial, ethnic, and sexual identity. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to record unprecedented numbers of deaths in the U.S., Biden’s appointment to head HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, will be a major player in combating this scourge. In nominating California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (62) to head HHS, Biden has “struck gold.” Many GOPers oppose Becerra or any Democratic presidential nominee, frankly, because they have a “D” after their names. However, some Democrats and “experts” in the health field are also grousing. Why? Because Becerra is not an MD or has any official public health expertise. These “experts” were “astounded” at Biden’s nomination of Becerra (See nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/08/20). Get real! As JFK noted, there is “no school for Presidents or Cabinet members.” People not trained in positions they have been appointed to often bring fresh viewpoints to their posts. They think “outside the box,” something vitally needed to getting control of this pandemic. Throughout his entire life and political career, Xavier Becerra has confounded “experts” who thought he was not the “logical choice” for the positions he has held.
Xavier (HA VEE AIR) Becerra (BESS AIR RA), if confirmed as HHHS Secretary, will be the first Latino to hold this position (latimes.com, Wilbur & McGreevy, 12/07/20). He embodies the American Dream. Becerra, a Sacramento, CA native, is the son of Mexican immigrants. Becerra’s mother was born in Jalisco, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. after marrying his father. Becerra’s father was born in Sacramento and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. Becerra grew up in a one-room apartment with three sisters. Becerra’s father picked vegetables and was a construction laborer. Becerra, fluent in Spanish and English, graduated from McClatchy High School in the center of Sacramento. He received his undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford University in 1980 as well as a 1984 Stanford law degree (latimes.com, Wilbur & McGreevy, 12/07/20, Cong. Directory, 112th Congress, Cong. Directory, California Thirty-First District, Landler, nytimes.com, 9/07/17, nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/09/20).
Becerra started his legal career working on cases involving individuals who had mental disorders for central Massachusett’s Legal Assistance Corporation (dems.gov/members/xavier-becerra). In 1986, he worked as an administrative assistant for CA State Senator Art Torres. From 1987-1990, Becerra served in the CA Dept. of Justice under Atty. General John Van de Kamp (gpo.gov, projects.washingtonpost.com/congress). Becerra was then tapped by Mr. Torres and other Latino leaders to run for an open State Assembly seat. After winning that seat, he served one term, from 1990-1992. As a state legislator, Becerra worked to pass a law that would increase gang members’ sentences (nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/08/20). Just weeks into Becerra’s freshman term, prominent CA Dem. Cong. Ed Roybal announced his retirement. Becerra jumped into the race and won this open congressional seat. This 64% Hispanic area includes downtown and eastern parts of LA and has a Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) of D+35. Becerra easily won re-election for 24 years (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac).
In Congress, Becerra landed a prestigious slot on the powerhouse Ways and Means Committee which deals with tax and health care policy. He became the first Latino to sit on that committee and to chair the House Democratic Caucus. Becerra became the highest- ranking Latino in Congress. He opposed Social Security and Medicare cuts. Becerra played an important role in helping write and push the landmark 2010 healthcare law/Obamacare through the House. He worked with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and VP Biden to pass this legislation (see nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/09/20, latimes.com, Wilber & McGreevy, 12/07/20, latimes.com, Levey & Wire, 12/06/20).
After CA Atty. General Kamala Harris, now VP-elect, won a seat in the U.S. Senate to replace retiring CA Dem. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016, Dem. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Dem. Cong. Becerra to replace Harris as State Atty. General. Becerra became CA’s first Latino Atty. General (latimes.com, Skelton, 12/10/20). Many reports referred to Brown’s pick of Becerra as “unexpected.” Former Dem. Gov. Gray Davis stated, “I’m not sure he (Becerra) was the logical choice, but he did a hell of a job (nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/09/20).”
And as CA Atty. General, Becerra sure did one “a hell of a job.” In 2016, after CA voters gave Hillary a 30% victory margin over Demagogue Donald, it was understood by both Californians and the rest of the nation that the Golden State, the largest state in the “Blue” camp, with the biggest trove of electoral votes, 55, would be the center of resistance in fighting Donald’s reactionary moves. CA would lead the nation in aiming to preserve Obamacare (See nytimes.com/elections, 8/01/17). To stop Donald, CA’s “top cop,” or State Atty. General, would be the one in charge of suing and coordinating with other states to stop Trump and his reactionary GOP Congress. Since becoming CA Atty. General, Becerra has shown he is unafraid to fight. He has actively resisted Demagogue Donald’s policies. He has sued Trump and his administration more than 100 times since his appointment and has been steadily winning in court. Becerra has been the national leader in the battle to defend Obamacare from the get-go. He led the charge against a lawsuit brought by TX and other GOP-led states seeking to throw out the entire law for the third time. This case was heard last month in oral arguments before the Supreme Ct. of the United States (SCOTUS). From the tenor of the questioning, SCOTUS Justices, including Chief Justice Roberts and even Brett Kavanaugh, seem to be signaling that they are not in favor of tossing the statute and are tired of this repeated anti-Obamacare litigation (See latimes.com, Wilbur & McGreevy, 12/07/20, latimes.com, Skelton, 12/10/20). Becerra has sued Trump and Company over constructing a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and requiring a citizenship question on the U.S. census. Becerra has been involved in lawsuits concerning gun control, consumer protection, the U.S. Postal Service, and immigration (latimes.com, Wilbur & McGreevy). Just recently, Becerra filed an amicus brief challenging Trump’s poor oversight of toxic chemicals and attacking federal pollution standards (nytimes.com, 12/09/20, Hubler & Stolberg). Becerra has engaged in this litigation barrage because he believes Trump has repeatedly overstepped his authority to change federal policies in a manner that harms CA and its residents. In Becerra’s words, “I am surprised that any president in any administration would at least 100 times be caught red-handed violating the law. I am not surprised that we have had to sue because we have to protect our people, our resources and our values, and we use the rule of law to do that (latimes.com, Wilbur & McGreevy, 12/07/20).”
If confirmed as HHS Secretary, Becerra will take charge of a sprawling federal agency that spends more than $1.4 trillion annually and is responsible for the health coverage of more than 100 million Americans through Medicare and Medicaid plans. The HHS Secretary oversees the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, two of the agencies, at “ground zero” in the federal response to the coronavirus. Becerra will have to rebuild the trust of these agencies that have been badly hurt by Trump and his allies using them for their own political agenda. He will be called upon to reverse Trump’s years-long attempt to weaken insurance rules and other protections enacted under the 2010 healthcare law (latimes.com, Levey & Wire, 12/06/20).
Dealing with the creation and passage of the complex Obamacare legislation, as a Congressman, gave Becerra a front-row seat to what’s involved in healthcare, crucial for running HHS. Having run the CA Justice Department, a large organization with 4,500 lawyers, that often interacts with state and federal lawmakers, will help Becerra in his HHS job (See nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/9/20). Becerra’s own humble background will, according to friends, increase his empathy for ordinary people. While CA Atty. General, Becerra received much information about how badly many essential workers have suffered under Trump’s lack of policies on health insurance and the pandemic. Becerra will be “all-in because he is so committed,” according to former Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown stated that not only will Becerra be committed to the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare at HHS, but to health care equity in general. And as Brown noted, “Becerra knows his way around Washington (nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg, 12/09/20).” Few people know D.C. better than Becerra. And in order to litigate so well in CA, Becerra had to have a top staff, which he will take with him and add to at HHS.
Becerra has always impressed people. Right before the 2016 election, Becerra was in Sacramento campaigning for congressional candidates. He ran into a former DC acquaintance, the late Nancy McFadden, Gov. Jerry Brown’s top aide. They talked for a long time. Atty. General Kamala Harris was a “slam dunk” to win CA’s open U.S. Senate seat, and Gov. Brown hadn’t decided on a replacement. McFadden suggested Becerra to Brown. Brown was impressed with Becerra’s resume and political smarts. Brown talked to Becerra on the phone and offered him the State Atty. General’s job. In McFadden’s words, “It wasn’t a hard decision (hiring Becerra). It just made sense (latimes.com, Skelton, 12/10/20).”
Biden’s medical advisers did not initially put forward Becerra’s name for the HHS post. However, Biden was impressed with Becerra’s management experience and his legal advocacy on behalf of Obamacare. Biden additionally liked Becerra’s personal story. Becerra, like Biden, came from a working-class family and was also the first in his family to graduate from college. Biden, who early in his career worked as a public defender, was taken by how Stanford Law graduate Becerra started his career by giving legal aid to clients with mental health needs. Biden knew Becerra from their shared time on Capitol Hill and was well acquainted with his federal and state record. Biden liked Becerra’s ability to work across party lines, something Biden has often done and will need for his administration to succeed. Art Torres, the former CA state senator who hired Becerra as an intern and mentored him, called Becerra, “the Latino Joe Biden (nytimes.com, 12/09/20, Hubler & Stolberg).”
Current CA Gov. Gavin Newsom praised Becerra’s nomination to HHS as “the fresh air of progress.” Newsom stated, “It’s a game-changer for us. We’ve had our eye on some big reforms. We’ve been looking for a great partner. And we’ve found one (nytimes.com, Hubler & Stolberg).” Dr. Ada D. Stewart, a South Carolina family practice doctor and the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, had hoped Biden nominate a doctor to the health secretary’s job. However, Dr. Stewart called Becerra’s selection the “next best thing: ‘Someone who has the same priorities and the same principles as her organization. Health care for all (nytimes.com, 12/09/20, Hubler & Stolberg).’” Biden’s nomination of Becerra to head HHS must be supported by all of us. Biden’s putting Becerra at the helm of HHS indicates that unlike Trump, our President-elect will have all hands- on deck in the fight against COVID-19.