WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has chosen Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who’s now the Democratic lawyer common of California, as his nominee for secretary of well being and human companies, ending a politically delicate search that introduced complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus a couple of lack of Latinos within the incoming cupboard.
Mr. Becerra grew to become Mr. Biden’s clear alternative solely over the previous few days, in keeping with individuals conversant in the transition’s deliberations, and was a shock. He has carved out a profile extra on the problems of prison justice, immigration and tax coverage, and he was lengthy considered a candidate for lawyer common.
However as lawyer common in California, he led authorized efforts on well being care, together with looking for to guard the Inexpensive Care Act from being dismantled by Republican attorneys common. He has additionally been a number one voice within the Democratic Social gathering for ladies’s well being.
If confirmed, he’ll instantly face a frightening activity in main the division at a vital second throughout a pandemic that has killed greater than 281,000 individuals in the US — and one which has taken a very devastating toll on individuals of shade.
Mr. Becerra, 62, served 12 phrases in Congress, representing Los Angeles, earlier than changing into the lawyer common of his house state in 2017. He’s the primary Latino to carry that workplace, and whereas in Congress he was the primary Latino to function a member of the Methods and Means Committee. He additionally led the Home Democratic Caucus, which gave him a strong management publish.
Born in Sacramento, Mr. Becerra grew up in a working-class household; his mom emigrated from Mexico. Neither of his mother and father “had a lot formal education,” in keeping with an official, and he was the primary in his household to graduate from school. He attended Stanford as an undergraduate and acquired his regulation diploma there in 1984.
Whereas in Congress, he was a fierce advocate for the Latino group, and have become deeply concerned in efforts to overtake the nation’s immigration system. He additionally promoted a nationwide museum dedicated to exploring the tradition and historical past of American Latinos. The Home voted this yr to create such a museum.
However it was underneath his management that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus misplaced its bipartisan membership. Within the late Nineties, Mr. Becerra traveled to Cuba and visited with its chief, Fidel Castro, which infuriated Republican members of the caucus. They resigned, saying they have been “personally insulted” by the go to.
Mr. Biden’s collection of Mr. Becerra comes because the president-elect is underneath growing strain from the Latino group to diversify his cupboard. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico had been considered in line for the well being secretary’s job, however she apparently fell out of the working. As an alternative, information leaked final week that Ms. Lujan Grisham was provided, and turned down, the place of inside secretary.
The leak prompted Senator-elect Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico to make use of a non-public assembly with high Biden advisers to rebuke the incoming White Home chief of workers, Ron Klain, and different senior Biden officers for his or her remedy of Ms. Lujan Grisham, in keeping with a Democrat conversant in the dialogue.
Mr. Luján’s frustration revealed a broader concern that few Latinos have been chosen for high-ranking positions within the Biden administration. Alejandro N. Mayorkas, a Cuban-American and the nominee for secretary of homeland safety, has been the one Hispanic chosen for a cupboard job.