President-elect Joe Biden has selected Xavier Becerra, the Democratic Attorney General of California, as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The former congressman will be the first Latino to run the department. Becerra will take on a lot starting day one, as the country continues to battle the surging coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Becerra became the Democratic Party’s leading choice over the past few days, according to sources close to the transition’s deliberations, and was a surprise. Mr. Becerra has carved out a profile on the issues of criminal justice, immigration and representation.
As Attorney General in California, he has been at the forefront of legal efforts on health care, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by his Republican counterparts. He has also been vocal in the Democratic Party about fighting for women’s health.
If confirmed, Becerra will immediately face a daunting task in leading the department at a critical moment during a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States — and one that has taken a particularly devastating toll on communities of color, especially Latino and Black populations.
“The A.C.A. has been life-changing and now through this pandemic, we can all see the value in having greater access to quality health care at affordable prices,” Mr. Becerra said in June, when he filed a brief with the Supreme Court in defense of the health care law. “Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities.”