Senate confirms Xavier Becerra to lead Department of Health and Human Services by a bipartisan vote of 50-49
Senator Murray: “We have our work cut out for us. But in Attorney General Becerra—we have a Secretary of Health who is up to the job.”
***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL REMARKS HERE***
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Xavier Becerra to serve as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a bipartisan vote of 50-49. Yesterday, in remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), reiterated her strong support for Attorney General Becerra and urged her colleagues to support his nomination, noting his leadership experience, legislative background, and health care expertise will help him to immediately get to work to end the pandemic, help people get quality, affordable health care, and address long-standing health inequities.
“When it comes to the hard work ahead to not only end this pandemic, but rebuild a stronger and fairer country, it’s clear we need an experienced leader at the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s clear that we don’t have a second to waste. And it’s clear that Attorney General Becerra is the right pick for the job,” said Senator Murray in remarks on the Senate floor. “His track record shows he has the convictions and the qualifications for the task at hand. As a member of Congress for over two decades, he has proven himself a skilled legislator who understands health care policy. As Attorney General of one of the nation’s largest Justice Departments, he’s proven himself as a leader capable of heading a complex Department like HHS. And throughout all of his work, he has proven himself as a champion for patients and public health.”
Senator Murray also highlighted his record as a champion for patients and public health, including his work in the House to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and his work as California Attorney General going to court to defend patients against pharmaceutical companies blocking generic drugs, opioid manufacturers behind the addiction crisis, and tobacco companies marketing to children.
Senator Murray stressed that, “Overall, his record tells a story that is clear, compelling, and persuasive. He has fought against pharmaceutical companies, opioid manufacturers, tobacco companies, and polluters. And for more affordable, quality health care for every patient. I have no doubt as Secretary he will put special interests on notice, put patients and public health first, and put science, data, and experts back in the driver’s seat.”
Senator Murray’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
“Thank you M. President. I’d like to start by taking a moment to address the awful violence we saw in Georgia yesterday.
“Everyone—especially elected officials—needs to not just speak out, but act against this deadly display of hate.
“To the victims and their families, and to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Washington state and nationwide, my heart is with you not just today, but going forward.
“I will continue sending a strong message that hate against you must stop, and I’ll keep working to ensure your safety in light of the terrible surge in hate crimes we’ve see in our state and across the country.
“Now, M. President. I rise today to voice my strong support for Attorney General Becerra to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“After four years of attacks on families’ health care from President Trump—after a year of this pandemic ravaging our nation— challenges that lie ahead of us, especially when it comes to health care, are numerous, enormous, and absolutely urgent.
“The uninsured rate, drug prices, and health care costs have all skyrocketed. Confidence in our public health agencies has plummeted. Already painful health inequities have grown deeper. And this pandemic has absolutely devastated communities and pushed our health care system to the brink.
“COVID-19 has killed over half a million people—and that number continues to rise.
“When it comes to the hard work ahead to not only end this pandemic, but rebuild a stronger and fairer country, it’s clear we need an experienced leader at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“It’s clear that we don’t have a second to waste. And it’s clear that Attorney General Becerra is the right pick for the job.
“His track record shows he has the convictions and the qualifications for the task at hand.
“As a member of Congress for over two decades, he has proven himself a skilled legislator who understands health care policy.
“As Attorney General of one of the nation’s largest Justice Departments, he’s proven himself as a leader capable of heading a complex Department like HHS.
“And throughout all of his work, he has proven himself as a champion for patients and public health.
“In Congress, he worked to help more people get quality affordable health care by passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act.
“In California, he has fought in court to defend the Affordable Care Act—and time and time again gone to court to fight for patients.
“Like when he won a $70 million settlement from pharmaceutical companies for blocking cheaper generic drugs from market.
“When he won a settlement from opioid manufactures behind the addiction crisis and joined a bipartisan investigation into whether opioids were unlawfully marketed.
‘When he sued e-cigarette companies for marketing tobacco products to children and led a bipartisan effort with the Republican Attorney General of Nebraska to protect kids from tobacco imagery.
“Or when he worked to investigate companies and hold them accountable for putting workers at risk by failing to follow COVID-19 safety measures.
“Attorney General Becerra has also worked to acknowledge and address issues driving inequities in health care.
“As leader of California’s Department of Justice, he fought in court against a Trump Administration rule that undermined care for the LGBTQ community, against the Administration’s constant efforts to undermine reproductive health care, and against its blatant disregard for the wellbeing of migrant children.
“Attorney General Becerra also established a new Bureau of Disability Rights at his Department, as well as a new office focused on environmental justice—including how pollution and public health hazards disproportionately hurt communities of color.
“Overall, his record tells a story that is clear, compelling, and persuasive.
“He has fought against pharmaceutical companies, opioid manufacturers, tobacco companies, and polluters.
“And for more affordable, quality health care for every patient.
“I have no doubt as Secretary he will put special interests on notice, put patients and public health first, and put science, data, and experts back in the driver’s seat.
“And he would also bring an important perspective to this role as a first generation college student, and the first Latino Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“He’s exactly the kind of leader we need to make sure we make good on the promise of the historic investments we made in the American Rescue Plan to end this pandemic.
“Investments to rapidly scale up testing, tracing, and sequencing so we can identify new strains of COVID and slow the spread.
“Investments to quickly and equitably get vaccines into arms—an effort that requires not just making vaccines available, but breaking down barriers to access, promoting vaccine confidence, fighting misinformation, and engaging community partners..
“Investments to build our public health infrastructure and recruit and train 100,000 public health workers.
“He will also be a valuable partner to Congress as we work to address challenges that predate this pandemic—but have been made all the more urgent by it.
“Like rooting out systemic racism and addressing inequities in our health care system, which have made this pandemic so much more damaging and deadly for communities of color.
“Like addressing the mental health crisis, which the trauma of this pandemic has made so much worse.
“Like fighting the opioid epidemic, a crisis which was deadlier than ever this past year.
“And like expanding access to quality, affordable child care, which has become more difficult for families to get during this pandemic.
“When this pandemic is over, we will need a strong leader at the Department to deal with the aftermath, and with so many other outstanding issues.
“Bringing down prescription drug prices, making sure health care in this country is truly a right not a privilege, undoing four years of attacks on reproductive rights, and ensuring every woman can get reproductive health care regardless of race, income, zip code, or disability.
“Lowering our unconscionably high maternal mortality rate, reversing the alarming trend of rising youth tobacco use, and ensuring the Office of Refugee Resettlement is upholding its child welfare mission by prioritizing the wellbeing of every child in its care, ensuring they are treated with decency, humanity, and kindness, and working to place children with suitable sponsors quickly and safely.
“We have our work cut out for us. But in Attorney General Becerra—we have a Secretary of Health who is up to the job.
“He has the support not only of Democrats, but of Republicans—as the Republican Attorneys General of both Louisiana and Tennessee have spoken highly of their experiences working with him.
“I urge every Senator who wants the Biden-Harris Administration to succeed at ending this pandemic quickly, keeping families safe, and ensuring everyone can get quality, affordable health care to join me in voting to confirm him.”