California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has emerged as a key contender to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, two people familiar with the matter say, as President-elect Joe Biden weighs who to tap for a role that will be critical to his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The HHS secretary position has been a source of intrigue and confusion this week, with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo being mentioned as contenders. Raimondo has said she’s no longer a candidate and Lujan Grisham’s status is now unclear.
But on Friday people close to the matter said Becerra has emerged as a “contender of interest” for the post. He is also a top candidate for attorney general.
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has also been mentioned as a potential pick to lead Health and Human Services, but the sources said she is being eyed for other posts as well.
A transition official declined to comment.
News of Becerra’s emergence comes as Biden faces increasing pressure to deliver on his promise to build out a diverse Cabinet. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has said it wants Lujan Grisham to be Biden’s HHS secretary and has pushed Biden to select Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez as attorney general. Members of the caucus expressed frustration in a meeting with leaders of Biden’s transition team on Thursday over how they believe Lujan Grisham has been treated in the Cabinet selection process.
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Friday that the transition team will announce key members of the President-elect’s health team early next week.
“You will be hearing more about the President-elect and the vice president-elect’s team early next week and about their health team early next week – and I would also just reiterate that there will be more to come after that,” Psaki said.
CNN reported Thursday that Jeffrey Zients is expected to be tapped as White House coronavirus coordinator. Zients, a top economic adviser under President Barack Obama and a co-chair of Biden’s transition team, is credited with reviving the Obamacare enrollment website, Healthcare.gov, which had been plagued with issues and crashed shortly after its launch in