Who is Xavier Becerra - Secretary of Health and Human Services: Biography, Profile, Family and Career
Xavier Becerra. Photo: Los Angeles Times

Who is Xavier Becerra?

Xavier Becerra (Democratic Party) is the Attorney General of California. He assumed office on January 24, 2017. His current term ends on January 2, 2023. Becerra (Democratic Party) ran for re-election for Attorney General of California. He won in the general election on November 6, 2018.

President-elect Joe Biden (D) identified Becerra as his nominee for secretary of health and human services on December 7, 2020. Becerra was first appointed attorney general of California by Gov. Jerry Brown (D). State term limits require the attorney general to serve no more than two consecutive terms.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Xavier Becerra, the Democratic attorney general of California, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services, tapping a former congressman who would be the first Latino to run the department as it battles the surging coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Becerra became Mr. Biden’s clear choice only over the past few days, according to people familiar with the transition’s deliberations, and was a surprise. Mr. Becerra has carved out a profile on the issues of criminal justice and immigration, and he was long thought to be a candidate for attorney general.

But as attorney general in California, he has been at the forefront of legal efforts on health care, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by his Republican counterparts. He has also been vocal in the Democratic Party about fighting for women’s health.

If confirmed, Mr. Becerra will immediately face a daunting task in leading the department at a critical moment during a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States — and one that has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

“The A.C.A. has been life-changing and now through this pandemic, we can all see the value in having greater access to quality health care at affordable prices,” Mr. Becerra said in June, when he filed a brief with the Supreme Court in defense of the health care law. “Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities.”

Becerra previously served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House, representing California's 34th Congressional District, from 2013 to 2017. He also represented California's 31st Congressional District from 2003 to 2013 and California's 30th Congressional District from 1993 to 2003. Prior to his career in the U.S. House, Becerra served in the California State Assembly from 1990 to 1992.

Becerra was a superdelegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention from California. Becerra was one of 75 superdelegates from the state. Superdelegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention were not bound by the results of their state’s primary or caucus to support a specific presidential candidate. Becerra supported Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Xavier Becerra Early Life

Xavier Becerra was born in Sacramento, California, on January 26, 1958, the third of four children of working-class parents Maria Teresa and Manuel Becerra. Growing up in a small home near the Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento, the family didn’t have much, “but we always ate well,” Becerra remembered years later. Manuel had been born in Sacramento, but grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. Maria was raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. Becerra’s parents, neither of whom had much formal schooling, married at the age of 18 and settled in California. To make ends meet, Becerra’s mother took a job as a secretary and his father built roads in Sacramento after working in the state’s vegetable fields. As a child, Becerra had a keen mind for science, and he excelled at nearby C.K. McClatchy High School. When a friend of his threw away a blank application to Stanford University, Becerra filled it out and got accepted. He majored in economics and, in 1980, became the first member of his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He remained at Stanford to earn a law degree in 1984. Becerra and his wife, Dr. Carolina Reyes, met at Stanford. They have three daughters: Clarisa, Olivia, and Natalia, according to History.house.gov.

Xavier Becerra Career

Who is Xavier Becerra - Secretary of Health and Human Services: Biography, Profile, Family and Career
Photo: Yahoo Movies

On January 24, 2017, Xavier Becerra was sworn in as the 33rd Attorney General of the State of California, and is the first Latino to hold the office in the history of the state.

The State’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Becerra has decades of experience serving the people of California through appointed and elected office, where he has fought for working families, the vitality of the Social Security and Medicare programs and issues to combat poverty among the hardworking families. He has also championed the state’s economy by promoting and addressing issues impacting job generating industries such as health care, clean energy, technology, and entertainment.

Attorney General Becerra previously served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. While in Congress, Attorney General Becerra was the first Latino to serve as a member of the powerful Committee on Ways And Means, served as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and was Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.

Prior to serving in Congress, Attorney General Becerra served one term in the California Legislature as the representative of the 59th Assembly District in Los Angeles County. He is a former Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice. The Attorney General began his legal career in 1984 working in a legal services office representing the mentally ill, according to OAG.

How is he challenging Trump?

As attorney general, Becerra has become the leading figure in California’s legal challenges to Trump’s various policies.

In all, the Associated Press reported last month, the state is involved in 45 lawsuits against the Trump administration. Several other states are also part of those lawsuits, The Mercury News reported last year. Among the most prominent lawsuits are California’s fight against Trump’s energy and environmental policies, his so-called travel bans, net neutrality and immigration.

In 2018, the Trump administration filed three lawsuits against California’s “sanctuary state” laws but a federal judge dismissed one of those in July, the Sacramento Bee reported.

What is the cost of those legal fights? The Mercury News reported that the price tag for California taxpayers was $9.2 million spent for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which ended in June. That’s up from $2.8 million the previous year, which included six months of Trump’s first year in office, as Courant.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), also known as the Health Department, is a cabinet-level department of the U.S. with the goal of protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services. Its motto is "Improving the health, safety, and well-being of America". Before the separate federal Department of Education was created in 1979, it was called the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).

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