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President-elect Joe Biden has named California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. While the decision has been made according to The New York Times, the appointment has yet to be announced by his transition team.
Biden is committed to building the most diverse administration in history and while progress has been made so far, Biden has faced criticism over the number of Latinos appointed to date. If the appointment of Becerra is confirmed by the senate, he will become the first ever Latino Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The news of his selection has drawn praise from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Becerra has a long record of supporting the Affordable Care Act and helped steer the legislation through Congress in 2009 and 2010. The former Los Angeles area congressman also led the coalition of Democratic states that defended the Affordable Care Act and resisted attempts by the Trump Administration to overturn it. Becerra will be responsible for expanding the Affordable Care Act and is likely to quickly rollback changes made by the Trump administration.
Becerra has worked with the Louisiana Attorney General to increase the availability of the drug Remdesivir in the state and with many Republican Attorneys General in legal actions against opioid manufacturers. His successes working with Republicans was one of factors that helped secure the position of Secretary of the HHS. Becerra will have the immediate task of overseeing the HHS response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the mass vaccination program due to be rolled out across the United States in early 2021.
Biden has nominated Dr. Rochelle Walensky to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky is a leading infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, with extensive career experience combatting HIV/AIDS. Dr. Anthony Fauci, current director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor on COVID-19 will remain in those two positions.
Biden has named Jeff Zients, former economic advisor to President Barack Obama, as the White House coronavirus coordinator and co-chair of the coronavirus task force, Vivek Murthy, is expected to return to the position of Surgeon General that he held under the Obama administration.
Other nominations include Yale School of Medicine professor Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as COVID-19 Equity Task Force chair and deputy campaign manager Natalie Quillian as deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 Response. The remaining members of the health care team are expected to be announced in the next few days.