The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: xavier becerra

Biden HHS Nominee Becerra Expected To Restore Reproductive Rights

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Xavier Becerra, currently California's attorney general, to be his head of Health and Human Services. While much of Becerra's work at HHS will focus on the pandemic, his nomination represents an opportunity to restore reproductive health and abortion rights.

Much of the discussion of the future of abortion is focused on the Supreme Court, thanks to the 6-3 majority of hardline anti-abortion justices. However, there are regulatory steps that Becerra would be able to take that can help increase access to abortion, even as Roe v. Wade is attacked in the courts.

Read Now Show less

Who Benefits From The Diversity Obsession? Not Biden Nominees

The days right after an election are an ideal time for political parties to work on fixing bad habits. For Democrats, that would mean kicking the increasingly dated custom of declaring race, ethnicity and gender factors in filling leadership positions. Demands on President-elect Joe Biden to put these considerations front and center show a failure to understand how politically poisonous identity politics have become.

Happily, Biden is choosing people who are highly qualified for the job. But unhappily, and no small irony, focusing on their identity only subtracts attention from their impressive careers.

Biden's pick to head the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a world-renowned economist. She's already been chair of the Federal Reserve, for heaven's sake. And so, why open news stories with a proclamation that, if confirmed, Yellen will become "the first female Treasury secretary"? Is she now a diversity hire?

No one elected the identity professionals now pressuring Biden. And it's unclear whether members of the groups they profess to represent want their services. For example, a Washington Post/Ipsos poll asked African Americans early this year whether a white presidential candidate's pick of a black vice president would excite them. Some 73 percent responded little or not at all.

Yet Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is now calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat with a black woman. Bass says she's available, by the way.

Note that her demand comes one month after voters in the very Democratic state of California rejected a plan to restore affirmative action in public hiring.

A problem with succumbing to the pressure is it's never enough. Much fuss was made over Biden's naming what The Washington Post described as the "first Hispanic American" to head the Department of Homeland Security. That would be the very capable Alejandro Mayorkas.

"Latino advocates," Bloomberg News says, were then pushing Biden to name New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as health and human services secretary. Though angry when those efforts seemed to fail, the activists now seem pleased that Biden has named another Latino, Xavier Becerra, to that prominent post.

You have to feel for Becerra. A graduate of Stanford Law School and California attorney general, he could have competed for the job with anyone. Now many think he was named to lead HHS because of his coloration.

Barack Obama becoming the first black president was a big deal. Nothing against Cori Bush, but how big a deal is her becoming the first black Missouri congresswoman, as many media felt obliged to put in their leads?

The New York Times had a twofer — actually, two of them — when Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, both from New York, were elected as the "1st Gay Black Members of Congress." Torres also considers himself Latino, so that makes three identities.

Lest we forget, an openly gay man named Barney Frank spent 32 years representing a demographically mixed district in Massachusetts. A gay man in Congress is not really news. That Torres was a highly effective member of the New York City Council should have been reason enough to support him.

Biden has pledged to name the first black woman to the Supreme Court, if and when he can fill a vacancy. I have no problem with a qualified black female Supreme Court justice. The problem is the pledge.

Biden told CNN that he understands it's the advocacy groups' "job to push me." The Democratic Party would do itself a big favor by pushing back on the diversity fixation. It's good for neither the party nor the talented people it burdens with unnecessary labels.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at

Biden Selects Medicare Advocate Becerra For HHS Secretary

Former Congressman and current California attorney general Xavier Becerra has been tapped to become president-elect Joe Biden's secretary of health and human services. The New York Times reports that Becerra "became Mr. Biden's clear choice only over the last few days," but had been seemingly off the radar up until the last few days.

The 62-year-old Becerra became California's first Latino attorney general in 2017, succeeding the Senator-elect Kamala Harris. Becerra will have his job cut out for him as, like with everything over the past four years, the HHS has been turned into a swampy racist mess. His job has been further complicated by Trump and the Republican Party's insistence on sabotaging every department, including HHS, all while almost 300,000 Americans have died due to the out of control COVID-19 pandemic in our country.

Read Now Show less

Democratic California Prepares To Resist Trump Agenda

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Democrat-controlled California are already laying the groundwork to fight President-elect Donald Trump’s conservative populist agenda.

On Monday, leaders of both houses of the legislature introduced measures to protect undocumented immigrants in the state from efforts by a Trump administration to deport them once the billionaire businessman takes office Jan. 20.

The bills followed closely on Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s nomination of U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra as attorney general, a high-ranking Democrat who challenged the incoming administration to “come at us” on such issues as climate change, immigration, and worker protections.

“Immigrants are a part of California’s history, our culture, and our society,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, responding to Trump’s calls to deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“We are telling the next Administration and Congress: if you want to get to them, you have to go through us.”

California voted decisively for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election, choosing the former first lady over Trump by 28 percentage points.

Democrats hold two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, and every statewide office. The most populous U.S. state, California has more than 2.7 million undocumented immigrants – about 7 percent of its 39 million population.

Brown’s nomination of Becerra last week positions the state to fight back against efforts to weaken progressive policies with a reliably progressive attorney general steeped in the ways of Washington.

On its first day back from recess on Monday the legislature passed resolutions urging Trump to abandon his deportation promise, and introduced two bills aimed at protecting immigrants.

One measure would set up a fund to pay for lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. Another would train criminal defense attorneys in immigration law.

At a news conference on Monday, Brown and Becerra avoided antagonistic language about Trump.

But both men promised to protect the state’s interests.

“I don’t think California is out there to pick fights,” Becerrra said. “But we certainly will stand up for the rights that we do have.”

The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Republican leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley criticized the legislature’s moves.

“Democrats stole a page out of President-Elect Trump’s campaign playbook and pushed a rhetorical, divisive agenda designed to inflame tensions many of us seek to soothe,” Mayes said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Andrew Hay)

IMAGE: U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA), nominated to serve as California’s attorney general, speaks on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

In California, A ‘Golden’ Political Opportunity Carries Risks

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — To some of the more politically ambitious members of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, it’s a long-awaited opportunity.

For the first time in more than two decades, an open contest for a U.S. Senate seat from the Golden State beckons next year.

It’s also no small challenge, and one, if taken, could potentially upset an otherwise secure political perch on Capitol Hill.

Only a few House members have the name recognition and star power needed to run in such a geographically and demographically diverse state, with some of the country’s most expensive media markets. Still, some lawmakers could be formidable competitors, depending on the field of candidates, some political observers say.

At least four House members told McClatchy that they’re seriously thinking about running to succeed retiring Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who served five terms in the House and will have completed 24 years in the Senate by the end of next year.

They are Reps. Adam Schiff, Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra from Southern California, and John Garamendi from the north. All are Democrats. Republicans are viewed at this point as underdogs, given their difficulties winning statewide, particularly in a presidential year when the higher turnout favors the Democrats.

“I think they’re all plausible, viable candidates,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican political consultant who worked for former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is the only official candidate so far. Environmental activist and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer withdrew his name from consideration, while former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has yet to make his intentions official.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, another name that’s been in the mix, has said it’s unlikely that she would run.

The presence of high-profile candidates in the race could put House members at a major disadvantage, said Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University and a congressional scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution.

“They’re starting out with a tremendous leg up compared to a House member from any of these districts,” she said. “It’s an uneven playing field.”

Next year’s Senate race is widely expected to break records for campaign spending, and House members considering a run know that’s a high bar.

“It’s an uphill battle for anyone in the House to run,” said Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat who succeeded her late husband, Rep. Robert Matsui. He served in the House for more than two decades and considered a Senate run in 1992, but ultimately declined.

Bill Carrick, a veteran political strategist who’s worked for California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others, said that a serious contender would need to raise $20 million or more.

“It’s going to take a lot of dough,” he said.

That’s true for anyone seeking a Senate seat from California. Harris will be under pressure to meet the high expectations that comes with being the early favorite, Stutzman said.

“She better raise more money than those sitting members of Congress,” he said.

Schiff, vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has about $2 million in unspent campaign funds, according to federal filings. Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has $1.2 million. Sanchez and Garamendi each have less than $400,000.

Schiff is Jewish and Becerra is Latino, which could appeal to two key constituencies. Both represent Los Angeles-area districts rich in potential donors.

Becerra said a Senate run would give him the chance to make a bigger impact on the state.

“This doesn’t open up very often,” he said.

But it comes at the risk of losing a safe seat and a position in the leadership of his party should Democrats regain the majority, a long shot next year, given that Democrats would need to gain 30 seats. Becerra, first elected in 1992, won his last three elections by more than 70 percent in a safe Latino congressional district.

Schiff said he enjoys his role on the Intelligence Committee and would lead the panel should the House flip. He won his last two elections with more than 70 percent of the vote. But an open Senate seat is tempting for him, and many of his colleagues.

Many members of the House “look in the mirror every day and see a senator,” he said.

Though crossing to the other chamber may be more difficult for a House member from California than it would be in a less populous state, it’s not impossible. Former Republican President Richard Nixon served two House terms before moving to the Senate in 1950. John Tunney, a three-term House Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 1970.

In 1992, two simultaneous Senate vacancies at once and a banner year for female candidates, set a path for the elections of Boxer and Feinstein.

Feinstein had a statewide profile as a former mayor of San Francisco, as well as an unsuccessful statewide run for governor in 1990. Boxer rose to prominence in the House through her push for the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Boxer was hardly the front-runner when she entered the race, Carrick said, but she “ran a really good campaign. She took off.”

Holding statewide office doesn’t hurt. Garamendi, now in his fourth term in the House, was previously elected as California’s lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.

“That ought to count for something,” he said.

But Garamendi acknowledges that the electorate has changed in the years since he last ran statewide. And it could prove difficult to reintroduce himself to voters with less than $200,000 in campaign funds, according to federal filings.

Much has changed since the last California Senate race. There’s the Internet and social media. Voters who decline to state a party preference can participate in the primary, and the top two candidates in the primary move to the general, and they could be from the same party.

Latino voters are now more than a quarter of California’s electorate, the highest proportion in any state. That could boost candidates such as Becerra and Sanchez.

House members eyeing the Senate race are not necessarily in a big hurry to announce.

“There’s plenty of time to take a look at it,” Sanchez said. “Meanwhile, I have great job.”

Personal factors also weigh heavily on any candidate.

Matsui said her late husband believed he understood the issues and had the skill set, as well as the fundraising capabilities it would take to win. But when his father was diagnosed with lung cancer, he decided the timing wasn’t right.

“He felt he could not focus on a race like that,” she said. “That is why he removed himself from the race.”

Family could be a decisive factor for any Senate hopeful.

“The four most important votes,” Becerra said, “are from my wife and three daughters.”

Photo: Amy The Nurse via Flickr