Senate

GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra

Heritage Action, a conservative grassroots group, announced Wednesday a $500,000 ad campaign in West Virginia and Arizona opposing Xavier Becerra's nomination to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, describing him as a "radical pick" with "zero medical experience."

The ads specifically target Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), urging them to "vote no on Becerra."

With President Biden's choice to lead the White House budget office, Neera Tanden, withdrawing her nomination Tuesday, the battle over Biden's Cabinet is turning to the Department of Health and Human Services

Republicans hope they can persuade a centrist Democrat to flip on Becerra just as Manchin did on Tanden because of her harsh criticism of fellow senators on Twitter.

A group of Republican senators led by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) held a press conference last week pledging to oppose Becerra and highlighting his record as California attorney general of fighting for abortion rights, including his defense of California's Fact Law, which required anti-abortion pregnancy counseling centers to provide information about public abortion and contraceptive programs. The Supreme Court later stuck down the law in 5-4 decision.

The ad running in West Virginia calls the Becerra vote "a big test for Joe Manchin," hitting him over Becerra's stance on guns and coal, two big issues in the state.

 

The ad's narrator says the nominee "thinks guns are a health crisis and wants to ban them" and "is against coal" and "tried to ban it from California ports."

Becerra last year oversaw operations throughout California where agents with the state's Department of Justice seized dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, assault weapons and drugs as the result of ammunition background checks.

In 2017, Becerra filed a lawsuit in federal court to protect residents from pollution from coal mining and challenging the Interior Department's decision to allow coal leasing on public land.

In 2018, Becerra backed the city of Oakland's effort to stop a developer from transporting coal through a marine terminal in the city that had been a military base.

The ad running in Arizona features both Sinema and Kelly, who will be up for reelection in 2022 after winning a special election to serve out the remainder of late Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) term. McCain's seat was temporarily filled by the appointment of former Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).

The Arizona ad highlights Becerra's suit against the Trump administration challenging a proposed rule to expand religious exemptions for employers who do not want to pay for contraceptives through their insurance plans.

The lawsuit eventually pitted Becerra against Little Sisters of the Poor, a nonprofit organization run by nuns, that joined the legal defense of the Trump administration's rule.

"Becerra has zero medical experience unless you count suing Catholic nuns, trying to force them to pay for abortions," the narrator says.

The ad also claims Becerra favored open borders during the pandemic.

Becerra told HuffPost in April of 2019 that unauthorized immigration should be decriminalized.

"Our senators promised to protect Arizona and our country, here's their chance. Vote no on Becerra," the ad states. 

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is viewed as a swing Republican vote, announced Wednesday morning he will oppose Becerra's nomination.

"Xavier Becerra has a long history of backing policies that are outside of the American mainstream," Toomey said in a statement.

He cited Becerra's stances of government regulation of health care, late-term abortions, religious liberty issues and business ownership of intellectual property.

"Throughout his confirmation hearings, Mr. Becerra was vague in answering most questions from Republican senators," Toomey said. 

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