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New Rule Lets Senate Dems Plow Through GOP Opposition to Advance Biden's 'Extremist' HHS Pick

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The Senate voted on Thursday to advance President Joe Biden’s nominee for health secretary as Democrats took advantage of new rules put in place to avoid gridlock in the evenly divided chamber.

The Senate Finance Committee split along party lines, 14-14, earlier this month on the nomination of Xavier Becerra. A tie vote in the past has often stalled a nomination.

However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer forced a vote on Becerra’s nomination on Thursday. The 51-48 vote clears the way for floor debate on confirming him.

“I’m perplexed that none of my Republican colleagues would vote for him,” Schumer said before the vote. “He’s a capable man. He’s worked hard to make sure that people get health care.”

“There’s a reason Mr. Becerra could not get one single Republican vote to move out of committee,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “It’s because he’s such a thoroughly partisan actor with so little subject matter expertise.”

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The action puts Biden one step closer to filling the top position at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the lone Republican to vote for advancing Becerra’s nomination.

Becerra now serves as California’s attorney general and previously represented the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years in the U.S. House.

As attorney general, he specialized in trying to block Trump administration actions, filing nine lawsuits on Trump’s final full day in office alone and taking the Trump administration to court more than 120 times in four years.

Do you support Becerra's nomination?

Sen. Ron Wyden, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, cited Becerra’s experience as a lawmaker on the House Ways and Means Committee and as attorney general. He said that Becerra has been in charge of a $1 billion budget and more than 4,000 employees.

“This is the work of somebody who really knows how to run a mammoth government agency,” Wyden said.

Republicans voiced concern about Becerra’s record in support of abortion.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said Becerra “aggressively crusaded in favor of abortion” as attorney general and repeatedly inserted California into abortion litigation involving other states.

“A number of President Biden’s nominees have been qualified, mainstream candidates,” Thune said.

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“Xavier Becerra is not a mainstream candidate. He’s an extremist who has used the offices he has held to advance an aggressively pro-abortion agenda and to target religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”

Becerra, 63, once went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion — and lost.


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