Can Anyone Suss Out Why GOP Is Going Balls-Out Against Biden HHS Nominee Xavier Becerra?
What's the difference between Xavier Becerra, Deb Haaland, and Neera Tanden, and Merrick Garland, Tom Vilsack, Pete Buttigieg, Tony Blinken, and Dennis McDonough? What could possibly account for Republicans' stalwart opposition to the first three nominees to President Joe Biden's cabinet, plus their grumbling about Miguel Cardona and Alejandro Mayorkas, when those five other white dudes have or will soon sail through on a bipartisan basis?
Oh, it's a mystery! Maybe if Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown put their heads together, we can finally figure out why the GOP is so fired up to tank those nominations. Get cracking, detectives!
Today is Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra's turn in the hot seat. He appears before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today, and the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow, although only Finance gets to vote on advancing his nomination to the full Senate. Tom Cotton, who labors under the delusion that he's a leader of his party and is destined to be the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, is spearheading the Republican opposition.
With rivals Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz engaging in a bout of competitive foot shooting, Senator Gaping Void of Charisma is looking for A ISSUE to champion, and torpedoing Becerra fits the bill — it allows him to curry favor with the anti-choice loons while banging the anti-socialized-medicine drum, plus there's that mystery X factor that separates Becerra from the rest of the "normal" nominees. Whatever could it be????
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has led Republican opposition to Becerra in the chamber, is spending tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds on digital ads starting this week, when Becerra will appear before two Senate committees. The ads, which were first shared with POLITICO and will run until Becerra's confirmation vote on the Senate floor, urge voters to pressure Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) to vote against Becerra.
A political adviser to Cotton said the two swing state senators were chosen because of their perceived vulnerability as they seek reelection, and the campaign may spread to more states in the weeks ahead.
"We want them to know that there is a political cost to voting for Becerra and if they vote yes, they'll see it in 100 ads between now and 2022," the adviser said. "Everything that goes wrong with health care over the next couple years, and there will inevitably be things that go wrong, can be tied back to this vote."
Translation: Because this is politics, and we think we can. Which, hey, fair enough, but your more skillful politicians tend not to say that shit out loud. At least Indiana Sen. Mike Braun has the sense to mumble some pablum about "My main beef is this needs to be someone with deep experience willing to take on the healthcare industry."
And indeed Republicans seem to have coalesced around a storyline where Becerra is both in the pocket of Big Insurance donors and simultaneously a dangerous firebrand seeking to impose socialized medicine on Americans and turn the country into Venezuela. He's entirely unqualified for the position, despite his 24 years in the House, where he worked to increase hospital reimbursements and helped write the Affordable Care Act, which he has defended in court as California AG. And at the same time he's a partisan culture warrior who must be rejected for his long history litigating to protect the Act's contraceptive mandate, aka "suing defenseless nuns."
Becerra served for 24 years in the House, and was a senior member of the committee that sets health care policy. Y… https://t.co/v0DHKBDhFt— Rep. Don Beyer (@Rep. Don Beyer)1614092524.0
Gosh, if only Becerra had relevant experience as a pharmaceutical executive like Alex Azar, the GOP would totally get behind him. You bet! Or if he was a doctor, a qualification the GOP has just this moment remembered, despite not giving a shit about it at any other point during the past thirty years.
"I'm not sure you have the necessary experience or skills to do this job at this moment," Sen. Richard Burr said this morning, while Mitch McConnell decried Becerra as having "no particular experience or expertise in health. His chief passion project in California seemed to be using the force of government to attack Americans' religious liberty and freedom of conscience."
But Tom Cotton gonna Tom Cotton, so he's all in with Students for Life, an anti-choice group which has set its sights on tanking the nomination of the 12-term congressman and current California attorney general.
"We've identified Becerra as someone who could be defeated and should be defeated," spokeswinger Kristi Hamrick told Politico. And perhaps she's right about that first part. Joe Manchin isn't saying yet whether he'll vote for Becerra — he is "undecided," he says — and fresh off their apparent victory over Neera Tanden it's unlikely that any Republican is going to throw the nominee a lifeboat if Manchin throws Becerra overboard. But if that does happen, you can be sure Tom Cotton will be there to take credit for it.
And still ... Howdy Doody will never, not ever be president. So thank God for small favors.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.