Republican senators on Tuesday questioned Biden Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra about his qualifications to lead the department, as well as his previous vote against a partial ban on abortion.
Becerra, who currently serves as the California attorney general and previously served as a congressman representing California’s 30th district, answered questions Tuesday during the first of two confirmation hearings.
North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, was the first to raise concerns about the attorney general’s qualifications to lead HHS, saying that “his actions as California attorney general during his term in Congress reveal a disregard for the value of this ingenuity. “
Burr criticized Becerra’s regulatory actions as California AG, including its defense of rights of entry, in its opening statement.
“These tasks will require solid policy experience,” Burr said of the duties Becerra will face as HHS secretary, comparing Becerra’s experience to that of Trump’s former HHS secretaries Alex Azar and Tom Price, noting that Azar “He had a broad career in the biopharmaceutical sector” and Price was a doctor. “
He added that former Obama HHS Secretary Mary Burwell “addressed health issues” and Obama’s former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “served as Kansas Insurance Commissioner.”
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“This level of experience that the American people deserve and that they continued to respond to pandemics,” he said. “Members of Congress do not become subject matter experts just because they are members of Congress, just because they are part of a committee that has health responsibilities.”
Burr said he is “still not convinced” of Becerra and “not sure” he has “the experience or the skills to do the job.”
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy echoed Burr’s concerns, saying that Becerra is a “very skilled attorney” with “some impeccable credentials,” but questioned whether they were suitable for the HHS secretary position.
“What would you think if you were nominated to be the Attorney General of the United States instead of Merrick Garland? I would say these guys are not qualified,” he said. “You can imagine the concern I have regarding your nomination. That said, I have an open mind and I just want to go through that.”
Questions about whether Becerra is suitable for the position are not new.
Some political experts, including the CNN commentator Ana navarro Y DNC President Jaime Harrison, on Twitter related concerns about Becerra’s experience to former President Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, who said the former HUD secretary lacked related professional experience before joining the HUD cabinet. Trump.
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California AG has had no experience in frontline healthcare, but has previously advocated for Medicare for All and has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration on issues ranging from abortion to the administration’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act of the Obama Era. .
Becerra and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of six state attorneys general and Washington, DC, in January to sue the Trump administration over an anti-abortion policy related to Section 1303 of the ACA. Becerra said in a statement announcing at the time that he will “defend California’s ability to enact and enforce laws that promote the health of its residents.”
Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney questioned Becerra on his stance on abortion on Tuesday, pressing the AG on why he voted against a 2003 bill banning partial-birth abortion, medically known as “dilation and removal.” intact, “or a late abortion that results in the partial delivery of a baby from the uterus before it is aborted.
“Most people agree that partial birth abortion is terrible,” Romney said. “You voted against the partial birth abortion ban. Why?”
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Becerra began her response by saying that she understands and respects that “people have different and deeply held beliefs on this issue.”
“I have worked … for decades trying to protect the health of men and women, young and old,” he said. “And as attorney general, my job has been to follow the law and make sure others follow the law … When I come to these issues, I understand that we don’t always agree on where to go, but I think you can find points at common on these issues. “
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He continued: “I think we can find some common ground on these issues because everyone wants to make sure that if they get a chance they will live a healthy life and … I look forward to working with you and each other to reach that common ground in so many Different topics.
Romney responded by saying that he thinks he and Becerra could “reach common ground on many issues, but on partial-birth abortion, it seems that we are not going to reach common ground there.”