President-elect Joe Biden has selected the Democratic attorney general of California, Xavier Becerra, as the nominee for Health Secretary.
Becerra will likely take over Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, who was sworn into the post in 2018. Azar’s policy priorities included the opioids crisis, drug pricing and health insurance reform.
As per some media reports, Becerra’s nomination has been surprising, considering the calls by medical experts in the US that the Biden administration appoint qualified physicians to serve in key positions in his administration.
In a letter addressed to Biden last week, medical organisations including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association requested Biden to “identify and appoint physicians to health care leadership positions” in his administration amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country and rising number of cases.
Who is Xavier Becerra?
Becerra was sworn in as the 33rd Attorney General of California in January 2017 and became the first Latino to hold office in California’s history. Since taking over this post, Becerra has taken the Trump administration to court over 100 times including to defend the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
He has won over 30 cases against the Trump administration including an “injunction to protect nearly 650,000 undocumented in the DACA program nationwide, blocking the administration from denying millions of women access to birth control and stopping the White House from gutting energy efficiency standards that help prevent climate change,” his website mentions, where he has been described as being “a staunch advocate for hardworking families”.
Becerra was born in Sacramento, California to working-class parents. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Stanford University and was the first in his family to do so. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
He has served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the US House of Representatives and after beginning his legal career in 1984, he represented the mentally ill while working in legal services.
What are the responsibilities of the secretary for health and human services?
The department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the principal agency that deals with protecting the health of individuals and ensuring that essential human services are available.
If Becerra’s nomination is confirmed then he will have to tackle the growing cases of COVID-19 in the worst-hit country in the world. According to The New York Times, he will “immediately face a daunting task in leading the department at a critical moment during a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States — and one that has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.”
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