Republicans seek to pin California’s Covid-19 problem on Biden’s HHS pick

Newsom has received most of the political blowback and is now facing a recall. But Republican Congressmen, whose public criticism of Becerra has so far focused much more on his support for abortion rights and Medicare for All, plan to argue at his confirmatory hearings that he will make California’s tough rules the national norm.

“The case we’re going to do against Becerra is, he’s going to make your life worse. It’s going to make the pandemic worse,” said a senior Republican aide. “To the extent that he was involved in the California pandemic, put down he the legal basis for the blocking and closing of places of worship. Becerra owns it all. “

The Senate health and finance committees will pick up Becerra’s nomination later this month, though only the finance panel will vote on whether to move Biden’s election forward. As the hearings draw near, Congress Democrats and Biden government officials remain confident Becerra has the votes to be confirmed – saying efforts to prevent him from taking the helm of the federal health ministry in the middle of a pandemic are after will backfire.

“Republicans are completely contradictory,” a person close to the government involved in the transition told POLITICO. “You say both [Becerra] doesn’t have enough healthcare experience, but also knows he’s responsible for the California pandemic. It is completely insane to blame the AG for this as he is not in control of it. “

While some public health experts have blamed California’s stringent rules for causing the affiliated residents to take precautionary measures against rebels and disregard, leading to the uncontrolled spread of the virus, Democrats insist that it was Newsom who created the guidelines has – not Becerra.

As the coronavirus overtook California this summer, churches and conservative groups sued over state restrictions, arguing that ceasing physical service violated their constitutional right to worship.

Becerra argued in multiple courts that indoor activities involving chanting or chanting pose a particularly high risk of transmission and cited several outbreaks of super spreaders that began in churches in other states. He also competed against San Diego County’s restaurants and strip clubs in December that were about to reopen as cases, hospitalizations and deaths broke records. The Supreme Court upheld some of California’s restrictions in May, but judges in December – after Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed on the bench Site with a California church requested reopening and asked a lower court to take another look. The restrictions remain in place for the time being.

The Supreme Court upheld some of California’s restrictions in May, but since Trump candidate Amy Coney Barrett joined the bank, she has twice joined partial California churches in submissions issued in December and late Friday night. In its most recent ruling, the court’s Conservative majority prevented the state from banning indoor worship in badly affected counties, but continued to restrict capacity and indoor singing.

Democrats have pointed to Becerra’s record as California’s chief legal representative as the primary reason for his qualification as head of the Department of Health and Human Services, citing his management of a large bureaucracy and his defense of the Affordable Care Act – including a Supreme Court case – and its efforts to crackdown on opioid manufacturers and large health care companies alleged to have anti-competitive practices. And defending pandemic restrictions They argue it wasn’t just part of his job, it was the right thing to do.

“Whenever there is a challenge to any state law or executive order, it is our job to defend it, provided we believe it is constitutional,” said Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general who has worked with Becerra on several health-related cases cooperated with POLITICO. “What he’s done coincides with what some of us had to do. For example, in my state during this pandemic, we fought over 40 legal disputes over governor’s executive orders. And people need to remember that executive Orders from science, data and hearing from public health experts about what needs to happen have emerged. “

However, Republicans on the Senate’s two health committees plan to argue that California’s handling of the pandemic is a poor reflection of both Becerra and Newsom.

Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Who sits on the HELP committee, said he was concerned that Becerra would bring a big government approach to HHS ‘work rather than a “more practical, entrepreneurial” one.

“If you look at places like New York and California, which were two of the biggest places for shelter in the home and have been shut down on a broad front – because they’re very bureaucratic – you see that California is probably doing the worst of any state in the country , especially now that the virus has really taken his ugly head to a higher level in general, ”he told POLITICO. “You are walking this hard line of doing things that I think are not only public health, but the right decisions too.”

Braun is one of several Republicans who have had long conversations with Becerra that they describe as positive. Braun even praised Becerra’s record of adopting hospital monopoly practices and pledged to work with him constructively if he confirms it.

Still, GOP senators still believe Becerra is Biden’s most vulnerable of all high-profile candidates – even more so than Neera Tanden, the White House budget director-designate, whose antagonistic Twitter story, led by a liberal think tank, alienates many right and right has left or Alejandro Mayorkas, whose endorsement was sluggishly accepted by conservatives who protested his immigration policy views.

Becerra is considered “the most radical candidate and the one member who is most against it,” said the senior adviser to the Republican Senate. “We expect that there will be more and louder opposition to him than before.” [Mayorkas]. ”

“If there’s anyone who’s likely not to make it, it will be them,” added another Senate GOP adviser.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Who doesn’t sit on any of the health committees, has been tweeting for weeks and Writing comments on Becerra should not be endorsedand argued that he was “Joe Biden’s lockdown enforcer”.

Several GOP aides who determined that if the House Republicans were united in the opposition, only a democratic defect would be required to lower the nomination, have Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.V.) and Mark Kelly (D- Ariz.) Selected as potential targets. Manchin’s office wouldn’t say whether the centrist Democrat has been approached about Becerra and how he will vote. Kelly’s office said there had been no GOP effort to secure his vote and that he was continuing to evaluate Becerra’s qualifications for the job.

In the meantime, the government is working to bolster democratic support and get across the aisle. Becerra has held virtual meetings with more than 30 senators since his December nomination. In addition to highlighting his work in the health care sector as an attorney general, his confirmation team went out of their way to remind lawmakers and the public that Becerra, a former Los Angeles congressman, served on and on the House Ways and Means Committee for decades Writing and passing helped the Act on Affordable Care.

“With thousands of lives lost every day, our nation can only afford a quick endorsement from Xavier Becerra, who brings decades of health policy experience and, as our largest state’s attorney general, fought alongside Republicans and Democrats to expand access to Covid- Treatments and keep the opioid manufacturers’ feet by the fire, ”said Andrew Bates, spokesman for the Biden transition.

Patty Murray (D-Wash.), POLITICO, who became Senate Chair for AID this week, told POLITICO that planning the Becerra hearing is one of their top priorities.

The finance committee that will vote to send Becerra’s nomination to the Senate received the background documents from Becerra last week and is currently working on it. Legislators are also waiting to know what the timetable for the impeachment trial will be and whether the committees will be able to do other business during that time.

Even if they ultimately lack the votes to block Becerra, Republicans plan to turn its affirmation path into a slog. That means following him in the two hearings and, like Mayorkas, refusing to give in at any time when his nomination comes to the Senate. With the upper chamber juggling the impeachment, the Covid-19 aid package and several other cabinet candidates, this could drag the process out for weeks.

Although much of the federal government’s Covid-19 response is being handled through the White House Task Force, which is already up and running, those familiar with the process said the delay in Becerra’s confirmation is making it difficult for HHS to make progress on important ones to achieve political measures alternates with the incumbent department heads. This could weigh heavily on a new administration looking to repeal a number of Trump administrative rules while basing the Affordable Care Act and relying on regulatory initiatives to be worked out by the public health department.

But administrative officials are outwardly not concerned.

In a recent briefing, asked if the delay in Becerra’s confirmation would hinder the implementation of a number of Biden executive orders on Obamacare, Medicaid and family planning, a senior official declined.

“HHS is a big agency,” said the officer, commending the department’s career workers. “We expect you to come to work immediately.”

Adam Cancryn and Jeremy White contributed to the coverage.

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