At Senate Nomination Hearing, Becerra Says Pandemic Comes First

Feb 23, 2021

President Biden’s pick for health secretary – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra – told senators Tuesday that tackling the coronavirus pandemic will be his first priority if confirmed. But he also pledged to expand health insurance, rein in prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care.

“To meet this moment, we need strong federal leadership,” Becerra said at the first of two hearings on his nomination. “I understand the enormous challenges before us and our solemn responsibility to faithfully steward this agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives.”

Before becoming California’s attorney general, Becerra, 63, represented the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years in the U.S. House. He faces opposition from many GOP senators, who question his support for abortion rights and government-run health insurance, along with his lack of a clinical background. In the past 25 years, only one medical doctor has led the Department of Health and Human Services in a permanent capacity.

Appearing before the Senate health committee, Becerra seconded Biden’s goals of 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days, increased coronavirus testing, ramped up DNA mapping of the virus to track worrisome mutations and reopening schools and businesses.

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—Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press

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