WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's pick for health secretary, Xavier Becerra, told senators Tuesday that tackling the coronavirus pandemic will be his first priority if confirmed, but he also pledged to work to expand health insurance coverage, curb prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care.
Becerra faces two days of contentious Senate hearings.
Republicans are portraying the California attorney general as unfit for leading a health care agency, calling his policy positions radical. Democrats are unfazed, accusing the GOP of playing politics with the pandemic. They say Becerra is well within the liberal mainstream of their party.
Appearing before a health committee Tuesday, Becerra said it's clear the coronavirus pandemic will be his top priority if confirmed.
He says "the president has ambitious goals – 100 million vaccine shots in arms in his first 100 days, increasing access to testing, sequencing the virus so we're prepared for the variants, and reopening schools and businesses." But ranking Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said he isn't sold yet on Becerra, leaving no doubt he faces a tough road to win GOP support.