The Senate voted to confirm Xavier Becerra to be the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services after a contentious nomination process, positioning him to lead the U.S. pandemic response and help shape liberal healthcare proposals.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made it through by a vote of 50-49 after much of the early afternoon debate consisted of Republican senators arguing against the nomination on the floor Wednesday, citing legal actions they argue infringe on First Amendment rights and religious freedoms. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who is often willing to go against party orthodoxy, voted to confirm Becerra.
"Attorney General Becerra is going to be laser-focused on the key priorities for the days ahead," Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden said Thursday before the vote. "Central to his agenda is going to be the distribution of vaccines and bringing together ... our country to have a coordinated strategy for dealing with the pandemic."
Republicans, meanwhile, argued against the nomination until the last minute on Thursday.