The Senate Finance Committee voted 14-14 on March 3 on the nomination of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra, JD. The vote follows hearings on the nomination held in the Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 26].
In his opening remarks, committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged the committee to advance the nomination of Secretary-designate Becerra, stating that “this country is in the middle of a public health nightmare, and the American people need to have a Senate-confirmed leader running HHS as soon as possible. HHS is right at the center of the effort to save lives and end the pandemic. There’s a tough job ahead of AG Becerra, and the American people cannot afford any delay moving his nomination forward.”
Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) raised concerns about Secretary-designate Becerra prior to voting against advancing the nomination, particularly regarding abortion and family planning. However, Crapo also urged Secretary-designate Becerra, if confirmed, to “permanently expand telehealth in a fiscally responsible way; to update payment systems based on lessons learned from COVID-19 flexibilities; and to find bipartisan solutions to shore up Medicare's finances.”
The AAMC supported the nomination in a Feb. 22 letter to committee leadership from AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD.
The nomination must now be considered by the full Senate, which could occur as early as the week of March 8.