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Senate Panel Deadlocks on HHS Nominee Becerra, Schumer Must Push for Floor Vote

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   March 03, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will now have to move to discharge Becerra's nomination from the committee to a full floor vote.

The Senate Finance Committee recorded a tie vote on the nomination of Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California and President Joe Biden's choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Wednesday morning.

The Finance Committee voted 14-14 on Becerra's nomination in a party-line vote highlighting the partisan divide on Biden's choice to lead the nation's healthcare department.

The vote took place one week after two confirmation hearings were conducted, one in front of the Finance Committee while the other was in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will now have to move to discharge Becerra's nomination from the Finance Committee to a full floor vote.

Much like the committee vote, a floor vote is likely to further display the differences between Republicans and Democrats about how HHS should be run.

Last week, ahead of the confirmation hearings, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement opposing Becerra's nomination.

"Mr. Becerra has no particular experience or expertise in health," McConnell said. "His chief passion project in California seemed to be using the force of government to attack Americans’ religious liberty and freedom of conscience."

Heritage Action for America, which launched advertising campaigns against Becerra's nomination prior to the confirmation hearings, rolled out new commercials this week targeting Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., ahead of a floor vote.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Finance Committee, told a Fox News reporter Wednesday that Becerra is "not right for the job" and urged his colleagues to reject Biden's "hyper-partisan" nominee.

“This isn’t complicated: In the middle of a deadly global pandemic, Americans want their Department of Health and Human Services to be focused on health and human services — not culture wars," Sasse said.

In an interview with HealthLeaders last week, Roger Severino, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS under President Donald Trump, said Becerra's nomination was "imperiled and headed for defeat."

"In a time of a national pandemic, we should have somebody with experience and a focus on improving people's health, as opposed to a focus on expanding abortion on demand," Severino said. "Becerra's positions make him unfit for the position of HHS Secretary; the American people deserve better, especially in this time of crisis."

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: SACRAMENTO, CA/U.S.A.-APRIL 10,2018. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks after receiving the Leadership Ally Award from Equality California for his support of the LGBTQ community. - Image / Editorial credit: Chris Allan /

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