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Biden Gets His Health Chief, by Single Vote

Senate confirms Xavier Becerra 50-49 to run Health and Human Services
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 18, 2021 12:37 PM CDT

(Newser) – The Senate on Thursday confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as President Biden's health secretary by a single vote. The 50-49 largely party-line vote makes the 63-year-old Becerra the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, per the AP. Becerra has been California's attorney general since 2017. He sued the Trump administration 124 times on a range of issues, earning the ire of conservatives. Before that, he represented a Los Angeles-area district in the US House for 24 years. A lawyer, not a doctor, his main experience with the health care system came through helping to pass the Obama-era Affordable Care Act and defending it when Donald Trump was president. The $1.4 trillion HHS encompasses health insurance programs, drug safety, advanced medical research, substance abuse treatment, and more.

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Leading Republicans dismissed Becerra as unfit. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, for example, said "the distinguishing feature of this nominee’s resume is not his expertise in health, medicine, or administration" ... but his "commitment to partisan warfare and his far-left ideology.” However, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association supported his nomination. “I understand the enormous challenges before us and our solemn responsibility to be faithful stewards of an agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives,” Becerra said at his confirmation hearing. “I’m humbled by the task, and I’m ready for it.” He comes from a working-class Mexican-American family; his father was in road construction and his mother was a secretary.

(Read more Xavier Becerra stories.)

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