Occupying the Department of Health should be one of the first steps during a pandemic. In the USA, however, the appointment of US President Joe Biden’s candidate lasted almost two months – now Xavier Becerra has been confirmed by the US Senate as head of the Department of Health.
Becerra was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday with a narrow majority of 50 to 49 votes. Biden’s Democrats, like Republicans, have 50 votes in the Chamber. If there is a stalemate, Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also Senate Chairperson by office, has the casting vote.
Becerra thanked the Senate for confirmation via Twitter. He was honored and ready to go to work, he wrote.
Most Republicans turned down his appointment. Because of their resistance, the personnel had been delayed despite the pandemic. He is the first Latino to take over the office of Minister of Health and oversight of the CDC health authority and the FDA food and drug authority.
“Radical” and “Underqualified”
Becerra was previously Attorney General of the most populous state of California. Prior to that, he had served in the Washington House of Representatives for 24 years. The 63-year-old has been a key defender of Obama’s health care reform over the years.
The Republicans in the Senate had subjected him to tough questioning and repeatedly delayed the vote. The Republican chief in the chamber, Mitch McConnell, described Becerra as “radical” and as “underqualified” for the health department, which was particularly important in the times of the corona pandemic.
The Democrats, however, pushed for a decision. “With the US still fighting the Covid pandemic, its confirmation is long overdue,” Democratic Senator Edward Markey said during the debate. Markey added that Becerra also stood for “reproductive freedom.” What it means is the right to freedom of choice when it comes to abortion – an attitude that many Republicans reject.