President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services will appear before a Senate committee next week for his confirmation hearing, giving the nominee a chance to field questions about how he will help lead the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Becerra’s hearing will happen a day after another committee is set to hold its first hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, Biden’s pick for US attorney general. His hearing will be followed by a second hearing on Tuesday.
The hearings for the two nominees are set to take place less than two weeks after the chamber finished its impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump, with the pivot back to Biden’s Cabinet confirmations likely to please the administration, which has more than two dozen nominees still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate.
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Becerra will likely face a barrage of questions from members of the Democratic-led committee about how he would help manage the government’s response to the pandemic. If confirmed, he would play a key role as the head of a department overseeing everything from the vaccine rollout to important health guidelines.
Becerra, a former member of Congress, has already played a critical part in national health care issues, having been the chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court.
With the Trump administration joining a coalition of Republican state attorneys general fighting to invalidate the landmark health reform law, Becerra has led a group of Democratic attorneys general arguing why the law remains valid. At issue is whether Congress’ reducing the penalty for not having health insurance to zero rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional, which would cause the entire law to fall.
If confirmed, Becerra will be the first Latino to lead the department.
Garland, meanwhile, was nominated by Biden last month to lead the Justice Department and has served as a US circuit judge since 1997. He was famously blocked by Republicans from being confirmed to a Supreme Court vacancy that he was nominated to by President Barack Obama in 2016.
CNN’s Jessica Dean, Paul LeBlanc, Jeff Zeleny, Kate Sullivan and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.