Xavier Becerra, California attorney general, is Biden’s pick to lead health department: NYT

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Then-Vice President Joe Biden, center, and then-Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., arrive in the Capitol Visitor Center for a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus, December 06, 2016.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the US Department of Health and Human Services, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Becerra, 62, previously represented Los Angeles as a member of Congress, where he served in the Democratic leadership. He has served as California attorney general since 2017, succeeding Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

If confirmed, the Times noted, Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the health department.

As head of the health department, Becerra will be charging with helping to tackle a surging pandemic and administration of hundreds of millions of vaccine. Over the past week, hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have increased 11.6%, according to The Covid Tracking Project; deaths have risen 46.5% compared to the week before.

Becerra will also have to undo potential roadblocks set by the outgoing Trump administration. On Friday, he led a coalition of state attorneys general in challenging a “misguided and dangerous attempt at deregulation” within HHS that “would hamstring the incoming Biden administration in the midst of a global pandemic.”

In particular, the Trump administration is seeking to automatically “sunset” any HHS regulation that is not reviewed within a set period of time. Critics maintain that will redirect limited resources toward bureaucratic processes just to preserve existing rules, jeopardizing funding streams for state governments at a time when HHS will need “to enact new regulations aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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