WASHINGTON – Today, Accountable Senate War Room reacted to a new report from the Los Angeles Times that highlighted the dangerous games Republican senators are playing to try to obstruct the critically-needed confirmation of Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. Amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 465,000 Americans, created one of the worst unemployment crises in our country’s history, and forced millions into poverty, Republicans are signaling their intent to delay and obstruct the confirmation of Xavier Becerra by pulling out one flimsy objection after another to distract from their fear that Becerra will take on special interests, including Big Pharma. Further delaying Becerra’s confirmation will hinder our country’s ability to recover from the pandemic, risking more sickness and death that could have been avoided.
“Republican senators are grasping at straws to find something wrong with Becerra, but their attacks have fallen short,” said Mairead Lynn, spokesperson for Accountable Senate War Room. “It’s no secret why these Republican senators are working so hard to reject Becerra: they see his track record of taking on special interests, especially Big Pharma, as a direct threat to their donors’ bottom line. As Americans continue to suffer through the pandemic nearly a year later, Republican senators must stop playing games with our nation’s COVID-19 response and ensure that President Biden has a fully confirmed Cabinet who can continue working to tackle the pandemic.”
Evan Halper with the Los Angeles Times outlined the desperate tactics Republicans are using to try to torpedo Becerra’s confirmation – and why they are wrong.
GOP senators attempt to call Becerra “too partisan”:
- The GOP is fixated on rejecting President Biden’s pick to helm the Department of Health and Human Services, but not for the type of personal failings that typically doom early nominees. It is Becerra’s perceived political and policy sins that are fueling the bid to block him. His California credentials aren’t helping in a Senate where Republicans have no shortage of hostility toward the state, particularly after Becerra led the filing of more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration.
- Biden backers argue that in the 63-year-old Becerra, the president has found the technocrat to fit the time: a seasoned, low-drama public executive and child of immigrants who helps fulfill the president’s pledge to name a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of America. Rarely before in his 30-year career in politics has Becerra been known as a firebrand, or “culture warrior” — a label Republicans now use for him, highlighting his support from groups that advocate for immigrant and abortion rights.
- “There are a lot of partisans in Washington,” said Charlie Dent, a former GOP congressman from Pennsylvania who was Becerra’s neighbor in Washington. “That is not Xavier’s style. He doesn’t have sharp elbows. Yes, he’s left of center. But he is not a ‘my way or the highway’ type.”
GOP senators are sending mixed messages: Is Becerra too close to the insurance industry or not close enough?
- Now GOP operatives are portraying Becerra at once as a leftist radical who will impose socialized medicine and a healthcare dilettante who will be manipulated by big insurance companies.
- When then-Gov. Jerry Brown tapped him in 2017 to fill the post of attorney general, left vacant by Kamala Harris’ election to the Senate, Becerra bolstered his healthcare portfolio. His $575-million antitrust settlement with Sutter Health, accused of using its market power to drive up prices, is heralded by activists as a monumental blow against price fixing by hospital conglomerates. He led the group of states defending Obamacare from a GOP legal assault. He enraged religious conservatives by suing a nonprofit led by Roman Catholic nuns that refused to cover contraceptives in its health plan.
- “My main beef is this needs to be someone with deep experience willing to take on the healthcare industry,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
Though recent Health and Human Services chiefs have included ex-governors with arguably no more medical experience than Becerra, Republicans say the pandemic era demands a doctor in the role. Braun said Becerra’s “tightness” with the insurance industry may be disqualifying, pointing to political contributions.
- Flashback to December: Senator Cornyn (R-TX) suggested he would oppose Becerra because he didn’t have enough ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
- “The same partisans accusing him of wanting to destroy the health insurance industry with single payer are saying he’s in the pocket of the insurance industry,” said a Becerra advisor involved in the nomination process not authorized to talk publicly. “These scattershot, logically inconsistent attacks are desperate.”