- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Another Biden Cabinet pick found himself in trouble Wednesday as Republicans set their sights on health secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, calling into question his qualifications and “radical” political record a day after the withdrawal of Neera Tanden.

The Senate Finance Committee split 14-14 along party lines on Mr. Becerra’s bid to head the Health and Human Services Department. The nomination was sent to the full Senate for debate and two floor votes, as conservative groups put pressure on swing Democrats to oppose the selection.

The signs of trouble came a day after President Biden pulled at her request the nomination of Ms. Tanden to head the Office of Management Budget once it became clear that years of pointed social-media jabs against lawmakers in both parties had poisoned her chances.

Even so, White House press secretary Jen Psaki shrugged off Mr. Becerra’s failure to win one Republican vote in committee.

“We remain confidently behind the nomination,” she said.

During the hearing, Republicans zeroed in on Mr. Becerra’s scant experience in health care along with his lengthy record as California attorney general of tangling with religious institutions, notably churches seeking to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Little Sisters of the Poor over contraception.

Xavier Becerra is as radical as it gets. I cannot support someone who is extremely pro-abortion, attacks religious freedom, supports open borders, and advocates taxpayer funded health care for illegal immigrants,” said Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, said that serving as health and human services secretary “should not be a learn-on-the-job position.”

“He has administered a legal department … with a budget of about a billion dollars, but his qualifications to be HHS secretary seem to be minimal beyond suing HHS,” said Mr. Cassidy, a physician.

Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho Republican, raised concerns about Mr. Becerra’s dodging of difficult questions during the confirmation hearing, as well as his fight against the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Catholic nuns sought a religious-freedom exemption from Obamacare’s mandate that employers pays for contraception, some forms of which pro-lifers attack as abortifacient.

“Significant concerns have been raised about Attorney General Becerra’s challenges to HHS’s authority to provide a conscience exemption from the Obamacare contraception coverage mandate and enforcement of the states’ restrictive actions, including a ban on indoor religious services that was rejected by the Supreme Court,” Mr. Crapo said.

Mr. Becerra won praise from Democrats, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who said the nominee helped write the Affordable Care Act when he was in Congress.

“As attorney general, he led the defense in court of the Affordable Care Act and protected the health care of millions,” she said. “He’s taken on drug companies for their high prices and their role in the opioid epidemic, and he’s worked to enforce mental health parity.”

Meanwhile, conservative groups made it clear that the Becerra nomination would be their top Biden Cabinet target.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called Mr. Becerra a “hardened pro-choice activist unfit to lead HHS.”

“During his confirmation hearings, Becerra refused to disavow his support for forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on demand, or his vote in favor of partial-birth abortion,” Ms. Dannenfelser said in a Wednesday press release.

Heritage Action for America released Wednesday a two-state ad campaign urging three swing-vote Senate Democrats to vote against Mr. Becerra, calling him “radical and unqualified.”

The $500,000 ad campaign targets Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona with ads calling on them to vote “no” on Mr. Becerra’s nomination.

“Sens. Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin are critical senators in opposing the extreme agenda of Biden’s HHS nominee, Xavier Becerra,” said Jessica Anderson, Heritage Action for America executive director.

The Arizona ad says “our two senators can stop one radical nominee, Xavier Becerra.”

Becerra has zero medical experience, unless you count suing Catholic nuns, trying to force them to pay for abortions,” says the 30-second spot.

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California countered by praising Mr. Becerra’s “distinguished record on protecting and expanding health care.”

“We need a staunch champion for health care access and equity to lead the nation’s Health and Human Services agency now, and we call on the Senate to vote to confirm Becerra’s nomination immediately,” said Jodi Hicks, PPAC’s president and CEO.

Certainly Planned Parenthood has an ally in Mr. Becerra, who filed 15 felony charges in 2017 against pro-life investigators David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for their undercover expose into the organization’s involvement in fetal-tissue sales.

Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden applauded Mr. Becerra’s commitment to women’s health care.

“I just feel very strongly over the last four years women across the country saw their health providers close down, their access to reproductive health care, including abortion, ripped away, and the attacks that were leveled against the attorney general in my view twist reality when it comes to women’s health care,” the Oregon Democrat said.

He added that the “fact is that fewer women are getting essential health care. More women are taking unnecessary risks.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is also slated to vote on Mr. Becerra’s nomination.

After the committee vote, Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, released a video explaining his reasons, which were numerous and included his opposition to Second Amendment rights and support for government-run health care.

“As a member of Congress, he voted for taxpayer funding of abortion. Said differently: He took away your rights to oppose your dollars being used for abortions,” said Mr. Scott. “He also — and I’ll never understand this — he voted against a ban of partial birth abortions.”

Mr. Scott concluded: “If there’s anyone that is antithetical to growing confidence in the public forum, it’s Attorney General Becerra.”

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