The Corner

Politics & Policy

Manchin Undecided on Becerra Confirmation

Senator Joe Manchin speaks with an aide during a break in the impeachment trial of President Trump in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin is still making up his mind about whether or not to vote to confirm Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Senator Manchin has not yet decided if he will support Rep. Becerra’s nomination,” Manchin spokesman Sam Runyon tells National Review in an email. 

Manchin announced Friday night that he will vote against the confirmation of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee to serve as budget director, because Tanden’s “overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget.”

Manchin’s spokesman declined to provide further information about whether the senator has any particular concerns about Becerra.

Objections to Becerra have generally focused on his lack of experience and his record of being a particularly aggressive left-wing culture warrior while serving as California attorney general. 

“I was surprised that it wasn’t an individual who had a healthcare background,” moderate Republican senator Susan Collins said of Becerra. “I would have liked to see the HHS secretary have public health experience,” Pramila Jayapal, a progressive Democratic congresswoman, told Politico.

In a new editorial, the editors of National Review argue that Becerra’s record as a zealous left-wing culture warrior makes him a poor choice to run HHS during the middle of a pandemic: 

As California attorney general, Becerra has been an exceptionally ruthless aggressor in the culture wars. He has attempted to use the power of the state to crush a wide array of average Americans — from religious dissenters to pro-life pregnancy counselors and independent journalists.

In 2017, Becerra filed felony charges against the pro-life activists and citizen-journalists who had gone undercover to expose Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies to biotech companies. Becerra had not gone after animal-rights activists for similar investigative tactics. In response to Becerra’s actions, one writer at the left-wing magazine Mother Jones called the Planned Parenthood videos “a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it.” Becerra was rebuked by the liberal editorial page of the Los Angeles Times for his “disturbing overreach.”

In 2018, Becerra and the State of California were smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case NIFLA v. Becerra over a state law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortion.

In 2019, Becerra aggressively opposed the merger of two religiously affiliated hospital chains in California because the resulting consolidated chain could reduce access to both abortion and gender-reassignment surgeries.

In 2020, Becerra was rebuked for his zealous defense of a California law requiring abortion coverage in insurance plans offered by churches. The Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that California’s abortion mandate violated a federal law known as the Weldon amendment, which prohibits federal funding of states and localities that force health providers and insurers to participate in or cover abortion. Becerra refused to comply.

In 2021 — in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic — it is hard to think of a worse choice than Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

To fight the pandemic, the Biden administration needs a health and human services secretary who has the broad trust of the public, but it’s going to be impossible for Becerra to earn the trust of those who constitute nearly half the country and believe (with reason) that Becerra wants to crush them and drive them from the public square.

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