Collins to back Becerra for HHS Secretary

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Greg Nash

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced Thursday that she will support Xavier Becerra’s nomination to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Collins said she decided to vote to confirm Becerra after several conversations with him on a range of issues, including lowering prescription drug costs and expanding health care access to rural areas across the country. She is the first Republican to come out in support of his confirmation. 

“During our one-on-one meeting, and in three subsequent conversations, Mr. Becerra and I discussed several shared goals that I hope we can accomplish in the Biden Administration. They include lowering the price of prescription drugs for patients and reducing our dependence on foreign countries for drug manufacturing,” she said in a statement. “I also urged Mr. Becerra to support additional funding for health care providers during the pandemic, particularly in rural areas.”

“He committed to making outstanding provider relief payments expeditiously and improving access to care in rural areas, which are major priorities of mine,” she added.

Collins also said in her statement that she pushed Becerra and the Biden administration to reopen schools, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that in-person learning can resume with precautions.

While the Maine Republican recognized she and Becerra have “disagreements” on a number of issues, she said she concluded that “he merits confirmation as HHS Secretary.” 

“I look forward to working with the Department to achieve bipartisan results on behalf of the American people,” she said.

Becerra’s nomination got a huge shot in the arm earlier Thursday when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he’d back the confirmation. Becerra’s now-likely confirmation will be at least somewhat bipartisan and have some breathing room should any Democrat defect.

Republicans had redoubled their criticism of Becerra after unified GOP opposition helped tank the nomination of Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

Conservative lawmakers have come out swinging against him over his lack of health care experience and views on abortion, as well as his support for “Medicare for All.” And Heritage Action, a conservative grassroots group, last week rolled out a $500,000 ad campaign pressuring a trio of centrist Democrats — Mancin and Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly — to oppose Becerra. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday invoked a rule to muscle Becerra’s nomination out of committee after a Senate panel deadlocked on advancing him to the floor. The Senate will now hold a four-hour debate and then vote on Thursday on whether to bring Becerra’s nomination to the floor. Once he reaches a full floor vote, Becerra will only need a simple majority to be confirmed.

Tags Charles Schumer Department of Health and Human Services Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mark Kelly Neera Tanden Susan Collins United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra
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