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Becerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All

Becerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All
© Greg Nash

Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson delay prompts criticism of CDC panel | Pfizer CEO says third dose of COVID-19 vaccine 'likely' needed within one year | CDC finds less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people got COVID-19 NIH to make announcement on fetal tissue research policy amid Trump-era restrictions Overnight Health Care: CDC director calls on Michigan to 'close things down' amid surge in cases | Regeneron says antibody therapy prevents COVID-19 infections MORE pointed to President BidenJoe BidenBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' MORE's opposition to "Medicare for All" on Wednesday when pressed on his own support for the idea, saying he would follow the lead of the White House.

Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOn The Money: Inflation rears its head amid spending debate | IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting T | Restaurants fret labor shortage IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion Trump faces test of power with early endorsements MORE (Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked Becerra at his confirmation hearing about past support for Medicare for All, asking what "assurances" he can give to Americans with private coverage that "that they will not lose their coverage in the future to some sort of Medicare for All approach."

"What I will tell you is I'm here at the pleasure of the president of the United States," Becerra responded. "He's made it very clear where he is. He wants to build on the Affordable Care Act. That will be my mission, to achieve the goals that President Biden put forward, to build on the Affordable Care Act."

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"I appreciate hearing that," Crapo said in response.

Biden made clear during the Democratic primary that he did not support the Medicare for All proposals put forward by more progressive candidates like Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump was right about 'trying to end endless wars' Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Bernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats reintroduce bill to block US from using nuclear weapons first CEO who gave employees K minimum wage says revenue tripled 6 years later Forgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data MORE (D-Mass.). Biden instead called for building on ObamaCare by adding an optional government-run plan, rather than eliminating private insurance so the government-run plan is the only option.

Becerra has long been a supporter of Medicare for All, a point that Republicans are using as one of an array of attacks on his nomination.

“I’ve been a supporter of Medicare for All for the 24 years that I was in Congress,” Becerra told Fox News in a 2017 interview.

With Biden's opposition to the progressive proposal and a razor thin Democratic majority in the Senate, there is no chance of Medicare for All passing anytime soon. Becerra, however, could grant waivers to states to make it easier for them to try to set up state-based single-payer programs if he's confirmed as Health secretary.

It's unclear how hard Biden will push for his toned-down, public option proposal. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill put forward by Biden and congressional Democrats increases ObamaCare subsidies to help people buy private insurance, but does not include any kind of public option. Still, future packages could include that proposal.