Conservative groups have launched advertising and grassroots campaigns in a bid to sink the nomination of Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care — FDA panel backs boosters for some, but not all Biden administration announces federal support for patients, abortion providers in Texas Biden administration releases B in COVID-19 relief for providers MORE for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), portraying him as too liberal and inexperienced for the job.
Heritage Action for America is backing a $600,000 ad campaign targeting Becerra, while Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion conservative group, is seeking to drum up grassroots support to pressure lawmakers to oppose Becerra's confirmation.
The two groups are aiming to galvanize Senate Republican opposition to the former California attorney general, which would increase pressure on Democrats from red or purple states. Biden's Cabinet nominees have thus far been confirmed with bipartisan approval.
Becerra is set to appear before the Senate Health Committee next Tuesday.
"Why would we be putting someone in charge of Health and Human Services (HHS) at such a critical time as the pandemic who doesn’t have the health care experience," said Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, noting that previous agency leaders who were not doctors still had experience in the health care industry.
The group's ad hits Becerra over his lawsuit against the Catholic group Little Sisters of the Poor and his support for "Medicare for All."
"He’s a radical partisan. An activist. Not a doctor. In the middle of a pandemic — the wrong appointee, the wrong time," the ad states.
Heritage is spending $400,000 on cable television for the ad, which is running on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN as of Thursday morning. The group is spending another $200,000 on digital ads.
Anderson said the group expects to zero in on specific Democratic states in the coming days to urge constituents to pressure senators to oppose Becerra's nomination. Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids MORE (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark KellyMark KellyOvernight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Businesses want Congress to support safe, quality jobs — so do nearly all Americans GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment MORE (D-Ariz.), Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockDemocrats push to shield election workers from violent threats House Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (D-Ga.) and Jon OssoffJon OssoffStacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise Herschel Walker's entrance shakes up Georgia Senate race Herschel Walker files paperwork to run for Senate in Georgia MORE (D-Ga.) are among those expected to be targeted, she said.
"We absolutely have enough time to make an impact here," Anderson said. "I don’t think senators have formed their opinion because the hearing process is part of that."
Becerra, 62, previously served 12 terms in the House representing Los Angeles. He was elected California attorney general in 2016. Since then, he has been among the most aggressive state attorneys general in challenging the Trump administration in court, suing over immigration measures and health care and environmental rollbacks.
Republicans have signaled early opposition to his appointment, citing the 100-plus lawsuits Becerra filed against the Trump administration and his support for abortion rights and Medicare for All.
Democrats hold 50 seats in the Senate, meaning every Republican and at least one Democrat or independent would need to oppose Becerra to block his confirmation.
The conservative campaign against Becerra is part of a broader multimillion-dollar effort from conservative groups aimed at tanking Biden nominees and raising awareness about liberal dark money groups.
Heritage Action, Judicial Crisis Network and Americans for Public Trust are poised to spend more than $2 million on ads opposing Becerra and Biden's pick for a top Justice Department slot, Vanita Gupta, as well as highlighting ties between dark money groups and the Biden administration.
Gupta, who has been nominated as associate attorney general, previously served as acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division at the Justice Department under former President Obama. Judicial Crisis Network in particular has seized on her comments calling for a review of investments and priorities of law enforcement in minority communities, arguing it shows she supports defunding the police.
A 30-second ad from Americans for Public Trust highlights ties between dark money groups and Biden staff, arguing those groups will inevitably influence his policy decisions.
Multiple news outlets reported this week that Biden's allies are planning to launch a new nonprofit advocacy organization funded by donors to build support for his policies.