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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.

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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 fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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.

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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