Xavier Becerra (2021- )
Xavier Becerra was born on January 26, 1958, in Sacramento, California. His mother was born in Mexico and emigrated to the United States, while his father was born in Sacramento, but raised in Tijuana, Mexico. Becerra became the first member of his family to graduate from college when he graduated from Stanford University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He then attended Stanford law school, graduating in 1984.
After law school, he worked as an attorney in legal assistance with clients who had mental health needs in Boston, Massachusetts, while his wife attended medical school. When they returned to California, Becerra worked for a California state senator before becoming a deputy attorney general in the civil rights division of the California Justice Department. In 1989, he ran for a seat in the California State Assembly, winning the election and serving one term from 1990 to 1992. That year, Becerra won a seat in the US House of Representatives.
Becerra served twelve terms in the US House from 1993 to 2017, representing the Los Angeles area. In the House, he was an advocate for the Latino community and became the first Latino to sit on the Ways and Means Committee. He focused much of his efforts supporting immigration and preserving social safety net for the poor and elderly. He was one of the original cosponsors of the Affordable Care Act.
After Kamala Harris was elected to the US Senate, Governor Jerry Brown of California appointed Becerra to replace her as Attorney General. In that position, Becerra spent much of his time resisting the administration of President Donald Trump. He sued the Trump administration more than 100 times as California’s Attorney General, with many of those cases being related to environmental policy and reproductive rights.
When Joe Biden won the presidency in 2020, he announced that he would appoint Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services. However, Becerra’s record against Trump made his confirmation very close. The US Senate confirmed him as secretary of the HHS by a vote of 50 to 49, with only one Republican senator supporting his nomination. He was sworn in on March 18, 2021, becoming the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
As Secretary, Becerra had a high-profile position, overseeing the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He was active in much of the federal government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the effort to vaccinate Americans.