Xavier Becerra, a former Los Angeles-area congressman and Assembly member and most recently California’s attorney general, was narrowly confirmed Thursday by the U.S. Senate to become the nation’s first Latino Health and Human Services secretary.
“I’m honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate,” Becerra wrote on Twitter following his confirmation. “Thank you. I’m ready to get to work at @HHSGov.”
Becerra was confirmed on a 50-49 vote, overcoming Republican opposition based largely on Becerra’s persistent legal challenges over the past four years filed as state attorney general challenging an array of policy decisions by President Donald Trump.
Becerra was elected to the state Assembly in 1990, representing a downtown and South Los Angeles district. He spent one term in the Assembly before being elected to Congress, replacing Ed Roybal. He spent more than 20 years in Congress, although he made an unsuccessful run for Los Angeles mayor in 2001.
He was appointed state attorney general by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in late 2016, taking over for Kamala Harris following her election to the U.S. Senate.
His confirmation as Health and Human Services secretary means Gov. Gavin Newsom will be tasked with appointing a replacement as attorney general.
“Xavier’s distinguished record of public service, and lifelong commitment to the most vulnerable, reflect the best of California’s values and exactly the qualities we need in the national leaders who will shepherd us through the end of this pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement. “As secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, he will proudly continue his decades-long fight for quality, affordable health care for all, and in turn make our country healthier and stronger.”
Newsom has not indicated who may be in the running to succeed Becerra as attorney general. Some activists and elected officials have been lobbying for him to appoint an Asian-American to the post, particularly in the wake of increased acts of hate targeting Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic.