The Senate narrowly confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Health and Human Services secretary, making him the first Latino to lead the agency.
The vote was 50-49. The Health and Human Services Department has a $1.2 trillion annual budget, and Becerra will have to implement parts of the American Rescue Plan, expand the Affordable Care Act, and work to lower health care costs. HHS also runs shelters for unaccompanied minors entering the United States.
Republicans attempted to paint Becerra as not being experienced enough in health care and the wrong person to lead the agency. Becerra has promised to collaborate with others and make decisions based on input from HHS career staff, policy leaders, and public health experts. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he anticipates Becerra will "undo the barriers that were put up to health care" during the Trump administration, and is "going to be hands-on."