Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, faces confirmation hearings this week for the position of director of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Nominated by President Joe Biden, Becerra will face two days of contentious Senate hearings: this Tuesday, with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Wednesday with the Senate Finance Committee, which must vote to advance the confirmation to the floor for a full Senate vote.
If confirmed, he would be the first Latino to lead HHS, an agency with a $1.2 trillion budget and a broad portfolio of projects.
The current California prosecutor is criticized by Republicans, who claim he does not have enough experience for the position, while Democrats have praised Xavier Becerra’s work in defense of the Affordable Care Act and access to abortion.
According to local media, the pandemic is expected to dominate questioning at today’s hearing. Senators from both parties want to know about the Biden administration’s timeline for getting the country back on track, the progress of the vaccination campaign, the prospects for reopening schools and the threat of more aggressive mutations of the virus. The hearing will last approximately two hours, according to the committee. Meanwhile, the Finance Committee will hear Becerra on Wednesday and vote on his nomination.
In the evenly divided Senate, Democrats can confirm Biden’s nominees without any Republican votes, provided they don’t lose any votes among their own ranks.