Healthcare

11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience'

Eleven Senate Republicans announced their opposition to President Biden's nominee for health secretary ahead of his confirmation hearings before two committees this week.

The senators, led by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), urged Biden in a letter to withdraw the nomination of Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general, arguing he is unqualified to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The senators wrote that Becerra has "no meaningful experience in health care, public health, large-scale logistics, or any other areas critical to meeting our present challenges."

The letter was also signed by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Biden is highly unlikely to withdraw Becerra's nomination, which will be considered this week by the Senate Finance and Health committees.

To be confirmed by the Senate, he would need at least 51 votes, which Democrats will have if every single member of the caucus votes for him and Vice President Harris breaks a tie.

Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), one of the most moderate Senate Democrats, is reportedly undecided on Becerra's nomination, and he recently announced he will oppose Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Monday he has not heard any concerns from Democrats about Becerra's nomination and said Republicans who oppose him are grasping at straws.

"I think they've done their best to try to find something that could stick in terms of their opposition, but there's really no there there," Wyden said, referring to Republicans.

He pushed back on claims Becerra is inexperienced, noting that he has served on key congressional committees and defended consumer interests, especially during the pandemic, as California's attorney general. 

Becerra was one of former President Trump's most vocal critics, filing more than 100 lawsuits against the administration and challenging its regulations on health, reproductive rights, immigration, consumer rights and more.

He led several states in defending the Affordable Care Act in court after the Trump administration refused to do so. That case, filed by Republican attorneys general who are trying to overturn the health care law, is still pending before the Supreme Court.

Becerra was previously a member of Congress and served on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care financing.

His nomination has been a target of Republicans within and outside Congress, with Heritage Action for America backing a $600,000 ad campaign against him. 

Republicans point to Becerra's support for abortion rights and Medicare for All as proof he is too "radical" for the job.

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