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Senate Committee Split on Becerra for HHS, Nomination Moves to Floor

Xavier Becerra, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of HHS, answers questions during his committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021. (Greg Nash/Reuters)

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday voted 14-14 along party lines to advance the nomination of Xavier Becerra as head of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The tied vote ensures a four-hour debate on the Senate floor and a preliminary vote on whether to advance the nomination to a final vote. Democrats require a simple majority in the preliminary vote in order to bring Becerra’s nomination up for a final vote, a Finance Committee spokesman told Bloomberg.

Becerra currently serves as California attorney general, and was previously a representative for California’s 30th, 31st, and 34th congressional districts. It is unclear whether the Senate will confirm Becerra, who faces staunch opposition from Republicans over his stance on abortion.

With the Senate itself tied 50-50, Becerra would likely face a close confirmation vote. Attention would be focused on moderates in both parties, including Senators Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R., Maine). Collins has reportedly already decided on how she would vote during the confirmation, but has not revealed her position.

When questioned by Senator Steve Daines (R., Mont.) during confirmation hearings, Becerra declined to say if he would support any restriction on the practice, including sex-selective or partial-birth abortions. Conservatives have also criticized Becerra’s suit to end exemptions to an Obamacare mandate that would require religious organizations to provide contraceptive coverage as part of health insurance.

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) told National Review last week that Becerra was “a hell of a lot more dangerous” than Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. The White House withdrew Tanden’s nomination on Tuesday following opposition from Republicans and some Democrats she had previously insulted on Twitter.

“Ron Klain and Chuck Schumer know that Xavier Becerra is a wolf who can’t be dressed in sheep’s clothing, so they’re using Neera Tanden as a decoy,” Sasse commented. “While the beltway talks endlessly about which senators got mean tweets from a lefty activist, a wannabe tyrant with a nasty record of attacking the First Amendment is going to quietly become the leader of the federal government’s largest agency.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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