Xavier Becerra’s selection as Health and Human Services Secretary could face a bumpy ride in the senate confirmation process if the Republicans capture a majority of the senate. The California Attorney General has already been challenged by some Republican senators for his position over the years in both Congress and as California’s top attorney on Medicare for All and the Affordable Care Act. But those are the issues on the surface that they can discuss. There may be other motivations more related to bare knuckle politics rather than policy for Republican senators to object to Becerra.
Chief among those concerns is that Becerra gleefully boasted about his 100 lawsuits on numerous issues against the Trump Administration. Many Republicans won’t forget.
But that’s not what they’ll say when it comes to questioning Becerra in confirmation hearings. He will hear that he doesn’t have the expertise or the experience for the job. That charge is not exclusive to GOP senators as some in the healthcare community have raised the same complaint.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has already starting an anti-Becerra drumbeat complaining that the HHS Secretary pick was done out of political correctness. The editorial concluded: “Mr. Becerra’s selection is what happens when identity and ideology trump experiences and expertise. He is Mr. Biden’s most disappointing choice so far.”
While Becerra should expect heat in the confirmation process, in all likelihood he will be confirmed. Yet, Becerra might want to hold on to the California Attorney General post until he receives that final vote putting him in the job, just to be sure.
Speaking of California AG. Most names floated in the media to replace Becerra once he becomes a cabinet secretary speak to the ideological positions of potential candidates. Many reviews emphasize these candidate’s progressive bona fides.
With a search for a new California Attorney General soon to begin, let me take the opportunity to raise an old complaint about the state’s Attorneys General that seemingly would continue if political empathy is emphasized in the new pick—that of the AG’s role of writing ballot initiative titles and summaries.
Readers of this column know that I have constantly harped on the issue that the job of title and summary writing should be performed by a non-partisan office. Becerra was heavily criticized for putting a thumb on the scale to weight an initiative’s summary toward his political thinking. Unfortunately, he continued a tradition of Attorneys General allowing politics to creep into their official duties of equitable arbitrator of initiatives.
Becerra may have said the right things about this particular role of the Attorney General when he testified before the California legislature to get the job, but he did not practice those words once he held the office. If the role of writing a title and summary cannot be transferred immediately to a non-partisan entity, at least the new AG should pledge to write balanced titles and summaries—and mean it.
Finally, staying with elected law enforcement officials deviating from responsibilities to the electorate, a note on the idea of ignoring the public will that came up again in the initial actions of newly sworn-in Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
Gascón pledged to eliminate cash bail.
Yet, when the idea of eliminating cash bail was presented to statewide voters on the same ballot that saw Gascón capturing the DA seat, California voters said they wanted to keep the cash bail system.
One might think that while statewide voters turned down the elimination of cash bail, Los Angeles voters may have voted otherwise. Afterall, L.A. County voters supported three ballot measures–Proposition 15 property tax increase, Proposition 16 affirmative action, and Proposition 18 allowing 17-year-old voters –that were defeated statewide.
But that was not the case with Proposition 25, the cash bail referendum. Like the state as a whole, Los Angeles County voters turned down the chance to keep the legislative law to eliminate bail, 45.3% to 54.7%. True, the referendum dealt with a state law, but the sentiment of the voters was certainly declared with the vote on Prop 25.
There is merit to criticisms of cash bail, but in a democracy the people’s vote takes precedence.
Which begs the question, how can a duly elected public official ignore the will of the voters?