UPDATED 7:26 AM PT – Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Joe Biden is filling out his cabinet and his picks are causing further division even within the left.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Roger Severino said in an interview Tuesday, he can’t imagine a more divisive pick to lead the agency during a pandemic than the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Severino pointed out Becerra’s background is not in health care and suggested he was an antagonist to the agency during the Trump administration.
“Well, first, I would say that the president nominated Attorney General Becerra because he felt he was exactly the right person to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this time,” stated White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “And that his work on a range of issues, including in working to pass the Affordable Care Act, including his defense of the Affordable Care Act on a number of cases in California, were certainly part of that decision.”
Even newspapers from liberal strongholds in Becerra’s home state raised the alarm with the Sacramento Bee pointing out that typically HHS secretaries have “substantial experience in management or the health care field. ” Additionally, the San Diego Union Tribune noted, it’s “baffling that Biden would choose an HHS chief with no public health experience.”
This comes as Becerra is set to appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee next week for a confirmation hearing.
Biden’s disregard for a lack of experience is not a new play as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was confirmed as transportation secretary earlier this month.
During the presidential primary season, Buttigieg routinely dodged attacks from the rest of the Democrat field about his scant resume. He also attempted to use his sexuality a way to make him stand out despite having arguably the least governing experience of the candidates who made it to the first primaries.
When he was under fire during his nomination for transportation secretary, he again argued he should be considered because having the first openly gay cabinet member would be an important thing for Americans.
Not all are convinced Buttigieg will be able to assume his new responsibilities as secretary, overseeing a transportation budget that is approximately 9,000 times larger than that of South Bend. However, a pattern emerging in the Biden cabinet is the administration valuing quick confirmations over quality candidates.
“Our nation can never afford to have a labor secretary that will ever be accused of being in cahoots with union bosses or beholden to management,” stated Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). “This is a job that needs to be filled today.”
Aside from social politics, Biden’s pick for labor secretary, Marty Walsh, represents old school Democrat controversy. He’s the former Building and Construction Trades Council leader and Laborers Local 223 president as well as the current mayor of Boston, Massachusetts.
“For the past seven years, I’ve had the honor of serving as mayor of my hometown, Boston, Massachusetts,” Walsh stated. “We’ve proven that we can create a world class economy that works for working people, we secured a $15 an hour minimum wage, we expanded workplace training, we created ground breaking policies to close gender wage gaps and increase racial equity.”
A recent economist YouGov poll of 1,500 adult citizens found that Americans are split on a minimum wage hike, unsurprisingly, down party lines. Sixty-six percent of Democrats are strongly for it and 64 percent of Republicans are strongly against it.
With the cabinet more than half full, however, the Biden administration may soon be able to make controversy commonplace.