In a narrow 50 to 49 vote held on March 18, 2021, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra to be the new Health and Human Services secretary. The vote was mostly along party lines with Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins joining Democrats in voting in favor of the nomination. Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono did not vote. Republicans called out Becerra’s lack of a background in health care as well as his support for abortion rights.
Becerra was born in Sacramento and was the first in his family to receive a four-year degree. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Stanford University and earned his Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School. Becerra’s career began in 1984 when he worked within a legal services office that represented the mentally ill. Becerra served one term in the California Legislature as a representative of the 59th Assembly District in Los Angeles County. Becerra had served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is also a former Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice. While in Congress, Becerra served as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and was the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. Before being nominated for this new position by President Joseph Biden, Becerra served as the 33rd Attorney General of the State of California, the first Latino to hold that office in the history of the state.