GOP blocks Biden health secretary because he wants to protect women's health

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Senate Republicans are mad that Xavier Becerra supports abortion rights and contraception access.

Senate Republicans are trying to torpedo President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services over his support for abortion rights and contraception.

Biden selected Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general and a former 12-term U.S. representative, to be HHS secretary in early December. But thanks to Republican obstruction in the Senate, he has not yet even received a confirmation hearing.

As head of the Cabinet department that oversees the entire health system, Becerra would play an enormous role in the administration's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health — key agencies involved with tracking, vaccinating, treating, and researching — are all part of HHS.

Additionally, with millions of Americans losing their employer-sponsored health insurance plans due to the pandemic-fueled economic downturn, HHS will play a vital role in making sure they can obtain new coverage through the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

But rather than let Biden install his pick to lead the nation's health system at a critical time, Senate Republicans are holding up his confirmation over his record of supporting access to birth control.

For weeks, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has been urging his party to try to block Becerra.

"Xavier Becerra spent his career attacking pro-life Americans and tried to force crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortions," he argued in a Dec. 6 tweet. "He’s been a disaster in California and he is unqualified to lead HHS. I’ll be voting no, and Becerra should be rejected by the Senate."

"Biden talks about "unity," yet he picks Xavier Becerra—who supports Medicare for All, suing nuns, and California's lockdowns—to run HHS," he wrote on Dec. 15.

While Becerra did not exactly sue nuns, Cotton was apparently referencing a California lawsuit against a Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious institute that did not want to follow an Obamacare provision requiring insurance plans to cover contraception to those that want it.

In a Fox News opinion piece last week, Cotton — a lawyer with no public health background — argued that Becerra "isn't qualified" because he is a "lawyer" with "no experience in public health."

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) tweeted in December, "Xavier Becerra is a disaster for religious freedom and pro-life issues. He has made his career aggressively pursuing a radical pro-abortion agenda and attacking the religious freedom of Americans who believe in the sanctity of human life."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked Becerra Tuesday in a floor speech. "Curiously, the President’s candidate to run the Department of Health and Human Services is the famously partisan attorney general of California. His recent experience in health policies seems largely limited to promoting abortion-on-demand and suing groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, which dare to live out their religious convictions," he complained.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Whip John Thune used a similar line of attack, calling Becerra "radically pro-abortion" and questioning why Biden, who is a Catholic, would even have picked him.

"As attorney general of California, he used his position to advance the pro-abortion cause. On top of that, he has showed a disturbing tendency to use his position to attack freedom of religion, freedom of conscience," he charged. "As California attorney general, he sued an order of nuns who care for the elderly poor, to try to force them to offer health insurance benefits that violate their faith."

Since last Wednesday, Senate Democrats have held a narrow majority. But thanks to McConnell's delays to the organizing agreement, Democrats still have not yet been able to assume the chairs of Senate committees or call hearings.

As a result, the massive Department of Health and Human Services is currently being run by an acting official — leaving no Senate-confirmed leader overseeing the pandemic response.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.