Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515
Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on Vote to Confirm Xavier Becerra as HHS Secretary
As Prepared for Delivery
Mr. President, the Senate will soon vote on the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Moving this nomination forward required an additional procedural step and more floor debate than others, so I’ll make just a few quick points.
First, not in our lifetimes has the country faced a greater public health challenge than the pandemic it’s facing today. HHS is leading the effort to end the pandemic as soon as possible. It’s coordinating the distribution of vaccines. It’s working to get PPE into the hands of nurses and doctors who still desperately need more of it. It’s supporting rural hospitals to keep them afloat so that rural patients have access to care.
The department’s work includes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the CDC, NIH, the National Guard, all 50 states and the District of Columbia, private health care systems and doctors across the country, and many more individuals and organizations. Bottom line, the American people are ready for this pandemic to end. They cannot wait any longer for the Health and Human Services secretary to be confirmed and on the job. This is no time for delay.
Second, Attorney General Becerra has the right leadership experience and health policy experience to succeed in this critical job. He’s currently the head of the nation’s second-largest Department of Justice. He’s in charge of a billion-dollar budget and more than 4,000 employees. He’s the top law enforcement official in what would be the fifth largest economy in the world.
In terms of health policy, he spent years and years on the Ways and Means Committee, one of the key committees with jurisdiction over health care. He’s been through major health policy debates, including the Affordable Care Act.
As California’s Attorney General he’s defended the ACA in court. When the pandemic hit, he fought to protect the health and wellbeing of all Californians, particularly nurses, doctors and other workers who find themselves in harm’s way. So AG Becerra has the health policy experience and the leadership experience to run this department, no question about it.
Third, AG Becerra made it clear to members of the Finance Committee that he will follow the law, he will be accessible to Senators, and he will work to find common ground on key health care issues even when it’s difficult. Most of the time, that’s really all you can ask of nominees of the other party. Health care is oftentimes a divisive subject – everybody understands that. It’s particularly true when it comes to women’s health. But it’s clear to me that AG Becerra wants to bring the two sides together. That’s a great place to start after the last four years of knock-down, drag-out battles over health policy changes that took this country in the wrong direction.
There is no prospect more unifying among Americans than ending the pandemic and returning to normal life as quickly as possible. Parents want their kids back in school. Grandparents want to hug their grandkids. And everybody wants to feel safe out and about in their communities. Getting the country to that point is the name of the game at HHS these days, and the department needs its leader confirmed and on the job as soon as possible.
I was pleased that there was bipartisan support for discharging AG Becerra’s nomination from the Finance Committee. I hope the Senate gives his nomination bipartisan support once again when it’s time to vote on his confirmation. And I look forward to working with him in the months and years to come.
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