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Health secretary candidate Becerra vows to ‘find a common cause’ as Republicans seek to paint him as extreme.

President Biden’s candidate for health secretary Xavier Becerra pledged Tuesday morning to work to “restore confidence in public health institutions” and “seek to find a common cause” with his critics, as Republicans sought to portray him as an unqualified liberal extremist. For the job.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, Mr. Becerra, the Attorney General of California, was toasted by Republicans who complained that they had no experience in the profession of health and targeted its support for the Affordable Care Act. and for abortion rights.

“Basically, you spoke out against pro-life,” Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun told Becerra. He asked if Mr Becerra would pledge not to use taxpayer money for abortions, which is currently prohibited by federal law, except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake, or in the ‘incest or rape.

“I will commit to obeying the law,” replied Becerra, leaving himself some leeway should the law change.

Tuesday’s appearance was the first of two Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Becerra; he is due to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Despite the tough questions, Mr Becerra appears to be heading for confirmation in a Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, but with Vice President Kamala Harris on hand to break the tie.

If confirmed, Mr Becerra will immediately face the daunting task of leading the department at a critical time, during a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and has taken particularly devastating havoc on people from color. He would be the first Latino to serve as secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Although Mr. Becerra, a former congressman, did not have direct experience as a medical professional, he took a keen interest in health policy in Washington and helped draft the Law on Health Care. affordable care. He has most recently been at the forefront of legal efforts to defend it, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the law from dismantling Republicans.

Republicans and their allies in the conservative and anti-abortion movements have taken hold of the ACA’s defense of Becerra as well as his support for abortion rights.

The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, on Monday released a statement signed by dozens of Conservative leaders, including several former members of Congress, complaining that Mr Becerra had a “troubling record” on ” policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious freedom. “

They specifically cited his vote against banning “late abortion” and accused him of using his role as attorney general “to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood,” a group that advocates the law. to abortion. Asked by Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney about the late abortion vote, Becerra noted his wife is an obstetrician-gynecologist and said he would “work to find common ground ” On the question. Mr. Romney was not impressed. “It looks like we’re not going to find common ground there,” he replied.

Democrats point to Mr Becerra’s experience as the head of one of the country’s largest justice departments through a particularly trying time, and his up-from-the-bootstraps biography. The son of Mexican immigrants, he studied at Stanford University both undergraduate and in law. He served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles, before becoming attorney general of his home state in 2017.

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Xavier Becerra, surprise choice to lead HHS, is ‘the Latino Joe Biden’

Mr. Becerra also established a state-level environmental justice office, the first of its kind, focused on the uneven effect of pollution and other forms of environmental damage on the health of the most vulnerable communities.

And he settled a landmark antitrust case against Sutter Health, a network of northern California doctors and hospitals, which agreed to pay $ 575 million in damages and monitor its business operations for 10 years. The lawsuit originally filed by a Grocery Workers Union Health Plan claimed Sutter’s anti-competitive behavior was driving up healthcare costs.

The lawsuit was a “paradigm case” on behalf of consumers, said Matt Cantor, an attorney at Constantine Cannon, a New York-based firm who worked with Mr. Becerra’s office on the lawsuit. The fact that Mr. Becerra chose to bring it, he said, “shows that he is very concerned about what the average American family and the average American employer have to pay in health insurance premiums.

A native of Sacramento, Mr. Becerra is the son of immigrant parents; her mother emigrated from Mexico as a young woman and her father was born in Sacramento but raised in Tijuana. They married at 18 and moved to California, where the eldest Mr. Becerra worked picking vegetables and working in construction – an experience that friends say will shape how Mr. Becerra occupies his life. post of health secretary.

“I think it gives him a certain perspective, a certain humility and an appreciation for working people, for ordinary people,” said Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who said Mr. Becerra l ‘had mentored as well as other Latin American newcomers. American parliament. “And when you talk to Xavier, you see he’s not a pretentious person.

At McClatchy High School in Sacramento, he was a high performing player whose extracurricular activities included golf, which he taught himself to play, and a leadership group focused on conflict resolution. “He was a really well-rounded guy – an athlete and a nerd and a leader,” said Karen Skelton, a California political consultant who went to school with him.

He was the first in his family to attend college, graduating from Stanford University in 1980 and Stanford Law School in 1984. In interviews, he said he applied to the school. elite only because he had filled out a blank request that a friend rejected. , and that it wasn’t until he drove with his mother to affluent Palo Alto that he realized his family was not middle class. There he met his wife, Carolina Reyes, who is now an obstetrician specializing in high risk pregnancies.

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Xavier Becerra puts environmental justice at the forefront

Esther Portillo, director of organization of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, one of the groups involved in the fight against San Bernardino, said winning wouldn’t mean stopping development. Instead, she said, it would be “to carefully consider the environmental impacts that we will have and to minimize those impacts as best we can.”

While jobs tend to be the main selling point of new developments, a union chapter, Teamsters Local 1932, has joined in the fight against the airport’s expansion. Randy Korgan, the local secretary-treasurer, said: “Alright bring the jobs, but make sure you manage the environmental impact, with the impact on the community – make sure these people have a good benefits, that they will be able to live in the area and buy houses in the area. “

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal will hear the airport case in February.

The involvement of the attorney general in local conflicts can irritate those who strongly support development. Steve Brandau, a Fresno County supervisor, was a member of Fresno City Council during some of the heated disputes over warehouse expansion plans. “It is infuriating that the AG’s office, Attorney General Becerra, steps in and is even tougher than the local lawyers,” he said. Quoting a long-standing conservative refrain, he said that in the long run, such activities “end up doing business completely out of state.”

Mr. Mataka acknowledged the friction in Fresno. “They thought we were out of our way,” he says. “Unfortunately for them, the attorney general is responsible for enforcing the California Environmental Quality Act. We were on our way.

Mr Becerra said his office worked carefully with the local government before filing a brief in a case and looked for ways to find compromises. Some communities, he said, don’t understand that their old ways of doing business leave communities underserved. They say, “We did it 20 years ago, why can’t we do it now?” he said.

He cited his experience as a 12-term congressman saying he views the role more as a negotiator than a fighter. “You’re always looking for votes,” he said, “even across the aisle. I don’t want people to be blind.

Fresno resident Katie Taylor applauded the state’s work in her city. She is 75 years old and takes care of her 51 year old daughter with Down’s syndrome. The increase in truck traffic is maddening, she said. “It’s just trucks, trucks, trucks, coming and going.”

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Biden chooses Xavier Becerra to lead health and social services

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. chose Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the Democratic Attorney General of California, as his candidate for the post of secretary of health and human services, putting an end to a political search sensitive issue that sparked complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus over the lack of Latinos in the new cabinet.

Mr Becerra only became Mr Biden’s clear choice in the past few days, according to people familiar with the transition deliberations, and was a surprise. He has developed a profile more on criminal justice, immigration and tax policy issues, and he has long been considered a candidate for the post of attorney general.

But as attorney general in California, he led legal efforts on health care, including seeking to protect the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by Republican attorneys general. He has also been a leading voice within the Democratic Party for Women’s Health.

If confirmed, he will immediately face the daunting task of leading the department at a critical time in a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States – and which has taken particularly devastating havoc on people. colored.

Mr. Becerra, 62, served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles, before becoming attorney general of his home state in 2017. He is the first Latino to hold that position, and in Congress he was the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee. He also led the Democratic House caucus, which gave him a powerful leadership position.

Born in Sacramento, Mr. Becerra grew up in a working class family; his mother emigrated from Mexico. Neither parent “had much formal education,” according to an official, and he was the first in his family to graduate from college. He attended Stanford as an undergraduate and obtained his law degree there in 1984.

In Congress, he was a strong advocate for the Latin American community and was deeply involved in efforts to overhaul the country’s immigration system. It also promoted a national museum dedicated to exploring the culture and history of Latin Americans. The Chamber voted this year to create such a museum.

But it was under his leadership that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus lost its bipartisan membership. In the late 1990s, Mr. Becerra traveled to Cuba and visited its leader, Fidel Castro, which infuriated Republican members of the caucus. They resigned, saying they were “personally insulted” by the visit.

Mr Biden’s selection of Mr Becerra comes as the president-elect comes under increasing pressure from the Latin American community to diversify his cabinet. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico was thought to be in line for the health secretary job, but she apparently fell out of the race. Instead, information leaked last week that Ms Lujan Grisham was offered, and turned down, the post of Home Secretary.

The leak prompted Senator-elect Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico to use a private meeting with top Biden advisers to berate new White House chief of staff Ron Klain and other senior Biden officials for their treatment of Ms Lujan Grisham, according to a Democrat familiar with the discussion.

Mr Luján’s frustration revealed a wider concern that few Latinos have been chosen for high-ranking positions in the Biden administration. Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Cuban American and candidate for the post of secretary of homeland security, was the only Hispanic selected for a cabinet post.