Biden's HHS Pick Is a Surprise

And not necessarily a pleasant one for some public health experts
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2020 3:30 AM CST
Biden Makes Surprise Pick for HHS
In this Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, file photo, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra talks to reporters after a news conference at UCLA.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Joe Biden's pick for Health and Human Services secretary was a bit of a surprise: The president-elect is reportedly going with Xavier Becerra, currently California's attorney general. The New York Times notes Becerra was long seen as a contender for the same job at the federal level, but rather than picking him as AG, Biden wants the 62-year-old—who previously served a dozen terms in Congress representing Los Angeles—as his health secretary. Becerra has been focused on health care lately, heading a coalition of Democratic states in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act, fighting for women's health, and, most recently, working on various measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sources tell the AP that Biden liked, among other things, Becerra's success reaching across the aisle.

But the Washington Post calls him an "unorthodox" choice, given that governors have often received the job—and, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there has been pressure from public health experts to choose someone with medical expertise. Some such experts, indeed, are saying they're unpleasantly surprised by the choice. However, there has also been pressure for Biden to appoint more Latinos; if confirmed by the Senate, Becerra will be the first Latino to run HHS. More of the latest Biden picks include Harvard infectious disease expert Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a post that does not require confirmation; Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's surgeon general, as surgeon general; and Jeffrey D. Zients as coronavirus czar. (Read more Joe Biden stories.)

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