Why did President-elect Biden consider Xavier Becerra for Health Secretary? Here's what Bay Area political experts think

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Monday, December 7, 2020
Biden picks Xavier Becerra for Health Secretary, ABC reports
Gov. Newsom would have multiple high-ranking positions to fill if California Attorney General Xavier Becerra becomes the Health and Human Services Secretary. Bay Area political experts explain why President-elect Joe Biden may have chosen him.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Xavier Becerra has an extensive political resume. Current California Attorney General, former United States representative and if confirmed, the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. But why did President-elect Joe Biden consider him?

"Presumably he really liked the fact that Becerra had played a role in defending the Affordable Care Act. That was probably a big selling point. I presume that when Biden introduces him, you're going to hear talk about that as part of the reason why," said Lanhee Chen, Director of Domestic Policy Studies at Stanford University.

RELATED: Biden picks California AG Xavier Becerra to be 1st Latino health secretary

President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration's coronavirus response.

If confirmed, Becerra would lead the department at a vital moment during the pandemic. Chen thinks Becerra wasn't always President elect-Biden's first choice.

"It is a puzzling choice in a lot of ways because Becerra would've been a more natural fit as Attorney General of the United States than a Secretary of Health," said Chen.

Christian Arana, Policy Director with the Latino Community Foundation, believes Biden made a strategic choice.

"Latinos are actually 4 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, a rate that is higher than any other racial ethnic groups. So if confirmed by the U.S Senate it would be a Latino who would be leading these important efforts," said Arana.

Arana points to Becerra's qualifications in immigration and criminal justice issues, assets that could serve him well.

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"What is also important to note is that the next Health and Human Services Secretary is also going to have a fundamental role on the issue of the family separation crisis," said Arana.

If Becerra is confirmed, Governor Newsom would now have multiple high ranking positions to fill, including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' senate seat.

"Let's say for example he appoints someone like Alex Padilla, the Secretary of State to serve as the next U.S. Senator. He is going to have to fill Padilla's seat as well," said Chen.