Biden taps California attorney general to lead nation’s health and human services agency

President-elect Joe Biden picked California’s top legal officer to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, placing a repeated legal opponent of the Trump administration in a position to oversee the nation’s health agency, according to a Monday press release.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination was among others made by Biden for his health team.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, 62, would be in charge of the $1.3-trillion national agency, tasked with overseeing the department website and improving the health of U.S. residents through advances in medicine, public health and social services. 

“This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor, and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives, and back to their loved ones,” Biden said in his statement.

Though he has no professional experience in the field of public health, Becerra helped craft the Affordable Care Act and defended it in court on multiple occasions. 

He’s also filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration — the most recent against an HHS proposal that would make agency regulations automatically expire if not reviewed within a short time frame.

Becerra spent more than two decades as a house representative before his appointment as California’s first Latino attorney general. If confirmed to the new position, Becerra, whose parents were raised in Mexico, would become the nation’s first Latino health secretary. 

“His nomination is yet another ‘first’ in his barrier-breaking career for Latinos and I look forward to voting in favor of his confirmation,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) said in a statement. “As a member of the House of Representatives he fought to make the Affordable Care Act law. And as California attorney general he led 20 states and the District of Columbia in arguments against its repeal before the Supreme Court. He’s a proven advocate for the ACA and expanding access to health care.”