Biden Picks Xavier Becerra to Lead Well being and Human Companies
WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Xavier Becerra, a former Congressman who is now the Democratic Attorney General of California, as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, ending a politically sensitive search that is the complaints by the Hispanic Caucus of Congress on a shortage of Latinos in the incoming cabinet.
Mr. Becerra has only become Mr. Biden’s clear choice in the past few days, according to people familiar with transition considerations, and was a surprise. He’s profiled more on criminal justice, immigration, and tax policy and has long been viewed as a candidate for attorney general.
As attorney general in California, he led health care legal efforts, including an attempt to protect the Affordable Care Act from being scrapped by Republican attorneys general. He was also a leading voice in the Democratic Party for Women’s Health.
If confirmed, he will be immediately faced with a daunting task of leading the division at a critical moment during a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States – and which is a particularly devastating burden on people of color .
Mr. Becerra, 62, served 12 terms in Congress and represented Los Angeles before becoming his home state’s attorney general in 2017. He was the first Latino to hold this post, and during his Congress he was the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee. He also headed the House Democratic Caucus, which gave him a powerful leadership position.
Mr. Becerra was born in Sacramento and grew up in a working class family. his mother emigrated from Mexico. None of his parents had “much formal education,” according to an official, and he was the first in his family to graduate from college. He attended Stanford as a student and received his law degree there in 1984.
During his convention, he was a fierce advocate of the Latino community and was deeply involved in overhauling the nation’s immigration system. He also sponsored a national museum devoted to researching the culture and history of American Latinos. The house voted to create such a museum this year.
But under his leadership, the Hispanic Caucus of Congress lost its bipartisan membership. In the late 1990s, Mr. Becerra traveled to Cuba and visited with his guide, Fidel Castro, which enraged the Republican members of the caucus. They resigned and said they were “personally offended” by the visit.
Mr. Biden’s selection of Mr. Becerra comes as the elected president is under increasing pressure from the Latino community to diversify his cabinet. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was believed to have been eligible for the job of Minister of Health, but she appeared to be out of the running. Instead, it was announced last week that Ms. Lujan Grisham had been offered and rejected the position of Home Secretary.
The leak prompted New Mexico Senator-elect Ben Ray Luján to use a private meeting with top Biden advisors to call upon the new White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, and other high-ranking Biden officials for their treatment of Ms. Lujan Grisham blame a Democrat who is familiar with the discussion.
Mr. Luján’s frustration indicated wider concern that few Latinos were selected for high-level positions in the Biden administration. Alejandro N. Mayorkas, a Cuban American and a candidate for the Department of Homeland Security, was the only Hispanic selected for a cabinet job.