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Biden Names California AG Becerra to Lead HHS, Pandemic Response

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks at a media conference in Los Angeles, Calif., August 2, 2018. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his health secretary and created three new senior White House positions aimed at fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden reportedly offered Becerra the health secretary position in a phone call Friday, according to the New York Times.

Becerra, a former 12-term congressman, is a defender of the Affordable Care Act. Last month he led the coalition of Democratic states defending the law before the Supreme Court against the Trump administration’s effort to overturn it.

He has held his role as California attorney general since 2016, when he was elected to succeed Vice President-elect Kamala Harris after she was elected to the Senate.

If confirmed, he would become the first Latino to head the $1 trillion-plus Department of Health and Human Services, which employs 80,000 people among eight agencies and 11 operating divisions.

Biden also announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci would become his chief medical adviser while continuing on in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Businessman Jeff Zients, who led the efforts to fix the HealthCare.gov website after its chaotic launch in 2013, will serve as Biden’s White House coronavirus coordinator.

National security expert Natalie Quillian will work as co-director of the coronavirus response, while Yale public health specialist Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith will serve as chair of the COVID-19 Equity Task Force.

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