Senate confirms Xavier Becerra to head HHS

Xavier Becerra is the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Pool Photo by Greg Nash/UPI
Xavier Becerra is the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Pool Photo by Greg Nash/UPI | License Photo

March 18 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed Xavier Becerra as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, making him the first Latino to head the Cabinet office.

The chamber voted 50-49 to approve the California attorney general mostly along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voting with Democrats. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, didn't vote.


"I'm honored and humbled by today's vote in the Senate. Thank you. I'm ready to get to work at @HHSgov," Becerra tweeted shortly after the vote.

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

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general and led a coalition of states seeking to protect the landmark Affordable Care Act healthcare bill from being repealed or weakened.

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.


During his confirmation hearings in February, Becerra told members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that the decision on whether to return to in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic should be made by local officials.

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"I will tell you what I believe is the best approach and that is to let science guide us and let the experts determine when it is safe, remembering that schools and education are a local issue," he said.

He also expressed support for Medicare for All and abortion rights, drawing rebukes from Republicans on the panel.

Darryl Coote contributed to this report.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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