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Biden taps Xavier Becerra to lead Health and Human Services Department

Vice President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head the Health and Human Services Department. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
Vice President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head the Health and Human Services Department. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- President-elect Joe Biden has chosen to nominate Xavier Becerra, the Democratic attorney general for California, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, according to multiple reports on Sunday.

If confirmed, Becerra, 62, would be the first Latino to head the department, which will play an important role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the United States harder than any other country.

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Biden's tapping of Becerra, which was first reported by The New York Times, was confirmed by unnamed sources to multiple news outlets, including The Washington Post and CNN.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom congratulated his attorney general on Twitter, saying Becerra will continue to make Golden State proud from Washington, D.C.

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"You've spent your entire career fighting for equality and justice," Newsom said. "Now, you'll help lead our nation toward quality, affordable healthcare for ALL."

Becerra, who was a congressman for 24 years, was tapped to be the California attorney general in 2017, taking over for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who was elected to the United States Senate.

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He has fought for numerous health care-related causes during his time as the attorney general and has led a coalition of states seeking to protect the landmark ACA healthcare bill from being repealed or weakened.

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He has also been behind scores of lawsuits filed against the Trump administration over issues such as LGBTQ healthcare rollbacks, student visa restrictions amid the pandemic and a slew of others.

Larry Levitt, the executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in picking Becerra, Biden has chosen "perhaps the biggest thorn in President Trump's side on the ACA, reproductive health and immigrant rights."

"If confirmed, he will have an opportunity to overturn much of what Trump has done," he said via Twitter.

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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, they are "proud" Becerra, the son of Mexican immigrants, will be nominated to head the Health and Human Services Department, calling him "a dedicated public servant."

"Becerra has lived the American Dream and he is a champion for working families, which we saw firsthand during his tenure as a leader in Congress," Castro said in a statement, encouraging the incoming Biden administration to select five people of Latin heritage to his cabinet.

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The news follows Biden last month announcing a slate of Cabinet nominees that include Alejandro Mayorkas to be the first Latino nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security and Janet Yellen to be the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary.

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