Fighting Xavier Becerra’s anticipated appointment to serve as the next secretary of Health and Human Services will be the first test of the pro-life movement’s muscle in a narrowly divided Senate and with a Democrat in the White House.
National Right to Life said Mr. Becerra would be the “most pro-abortion HHS secretary ever,” and the Susan B. Anthony List, another pro-life group gearing up for the fight, said he was uniquely bad among all of presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s options.
They particularly fear what he would try to do to roll back Trump administration policies.
“We’re very much focused on the damage that could be done through the executive branch and in particular at HHS. This is an area where abortion comes up frequently,” said SBA List spokeswoman Mallory Quigley. “Becerra is not a moderate pick for this position.”
Mr. Biden announced his selection of Mr. Becerra on Monday.
The California attorney general is a somewhat obtuse fit for the top health job, having a background as a lawyer rather than in health policy. But his backers pointed to his efforts defending Obamacare in the courts against Trump administration changes and his defense of abortion rights as key qualifications.
“Huge!” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a post on Twitter. “Trump’s HHS was the home of some of the Administration’s worst horrors. A new era has begun indeed.”
As California attorney general, Mr. Becerra fought to maintain a state law forcing anti-abortion pregnancy centers to disclose the availability of abortion services to their clients — and lost at the Supreme Court in a 2018 ruling.
Pro-life groups also cite grievances dating to his time in Congress voting against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1995, up to his frequent filing of briefs in court cases arguing against other states’ pro-life laws.
“Xavier Becerra is an abortion activist, plain and simple,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.
The groups say they are counting on Republican senators to block Mr. Becerra and some of Mr. Biden’s other nominees.
Ms. Quigley said her team is watching closely to see how Mr. Biden would proceed in the State Department and at the Department of Justice as well, in evaluating her team’s organized response in opposition to nominees determined to erase Mr. Trump’s pro-life agenda.
Two Republican lawmakers, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Braun of Indiana, signaled opposition to Mr. Becerra’s appointment soon after word of his looming nomination became public.
Other Biden nominees also have been met with swift pushback from Senate Republicans, including Neera Tanden’s pick as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Mr. Cotton has said Ms. Tanden stands no chance of being confirmed and called on Mr. Biden’s team to go back to the drawing board.
Former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s selection as Treasury secretary met mixed reaction, with several Republicans saying they expect to back her. But Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has signaled opposition, saying she was part of a slate of Biden picks he viewed as “corporate liberals and warmongers.”
Ms. Quigley said it is too soon to know the makeup of a conservative coalition opposing Mr. Biden’s nominees, but one player is America Rising PAC.
Armed with hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests, plans for paid-advertising campaigns and a growing staff of 15, the Biden Accountability Initiative is gearing up for battle against all of Mr. Biden’s nominees.
“We’re taking a methodical approach to investigating all of Joe Biden’s Cabinet appointments and high-level administration officials,” said Chris Martin, America Rising spokesperson. “Each day that passes is another day Biden is stacking his administration with radical liberal activists, and Republicans can’t afford to be asleep at the wheel.”
Alongside Mr. Becerra, other top targets for the group are Ms. Tanden, Anthony Blinken’s anticipated nomination as secretary of state, and Michelle Flournoy’s yet-to-be-determined role in a Biden administration.
For now, the pro-life groups plan to use Mr. Biden’s Cabinet announcements as political ammunition in the January runoff elections for Georgia’s two Senate seats.
“This really adds momentum and fuels our efforts [in Georgia] to prevent pro-abortion forces from taking over the Senate and making sure that it’s [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell who is in charge,” Ms. Quigley said.