Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general and former congressman, was confirmed Thursday by the Senate as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The narrow confirmation vote of 50-49 took place mostly along party lines, with Democrats in support and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine being the only Republican to cross the aisle and support Becerra’s confirmation. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) did not vote.
Becerra wrote on Twitter that he is “honored and humbled” by his confirmation, and he is “ready to get to work.”
Becerra was one of Biden’s most controversial nominations due to his previous positions on abortion and conscience protections. The Senate Finance Committee was ultimately deadlocked on a favorable recommendation for his confirmation, forcing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to file a discharge petition for the whole chamber to vote to advance the confirmation.
He will take the helm of the health agency amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with legal experience – but critics have pointed to his lack of public health experience.
Pro-life advocates from both parties expressed alarm at Becerra’s confirmation, pointing to his previous defense of coercive state abortion coverage and abortion advertising mandates.
In a statement, Democrats for Life of America said Becerra’s record on abortion “should shock and horrify every American.”
Becerra as health secretary will be “a clear and present danger for Catholics and all people of faith,” said CatholicVote.org president Brian Burch.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said in a statement that Becerra’s confirmation “is alarming given the fact that he has spent his career expanding pro-abortion policies and persecuting pro-life groups and individuals.”
Thomas Glessner, president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), said in a statement that the institute was “disheartened by the confirmation of anti-life extremist Xavier Becerra” during March, Women’s History Month.
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