Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 18:00 pm
The Senate Finance Committee was divided on the confirmation of Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services on Wednesday.
In voting to favorably recommend the confirmation of Becerra to the entire Senate on Wednesday, the committee was equally divided by party, with 14 members of each party voting for and against Becerra. Democrats supported his confirmation while Republicans opposed.
Per Senate rules, the vote will now be transmitted to the secretary of the senate and either party’s leader can move to force a confirmation vote by the entire chamber.
Becerra, currently California’s attorney general, has been vociferously opposed by pro-life groups as health secretary nominee. On Wednesday, Republican senators brought up his record on abortion and religious freedom as reasons to oppose his confirmation.
“His qualifications for HHS Secretary seem to be minimal, beyond suing HHS,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Becerra was grilled over his treatment of Catholic religious last week at his confirmation hearings. As attorney general of California, he defended state mandates that required even Catholic religious to provide abortion coverage, and forced crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. Regarding the latter mandate, the Supreme Court ruled against Becerra in 2018 in NIFLA v. Becerra.
Becerra also sued the Trump administration over its religious and moral exemptions that it granted to the HHS contraceptive coverage mandate—an act which forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to go back to court.
The Little Sisters of the Poor had benefited from the religious exemption to providing coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. They moved to return to court to defend their exemption after California and Pennsylvania sued to take it away.