President-elect Joe Biden is expected to select California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, The New York Times reports.
Becerra, who was considered a candidate to head the Justice Department, emerged as a frontrunner in recent days, which came as a “surprise” to members of Biden’s transition team, according to the report.
Though Becerra has been a leading voice on criminal justice and immigration matters, he has led a multi-state coalition defending Obamacare from Republican attempts to dismantle the law.
Becerra, who would become the first Latino to run the department, would also be tasked with managing a pandemic that has already killed more than 280,000 people in the United States.
“In Congress, I helped pass the Affordable Care Act. As California's Attorney General, I defended it,” Becerra said on Twitter. “As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care—through this pandemic and beyond.”
Biden taps top infectious disease specialist for CDC:
Biden also selected Rochelle Walensky, the head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Walensky, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is an expert on AIDS and HIV and has been a leading voice on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Biden has chosen one of the most respected infectious disease docs in the world,” said Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “She has a long history working on HIV and has, in the past year, become a tour de force in addressing COVID. She’ll take the helm of CDC at perhaps its most critical moment.”
Ex-surgeon general returns:
Biden also selected Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as Obama’s surgeon general, to return to the same role amid the pandemic.
Murthy, who was fired by Trump in 2017, helped lead the administration’s Ebola and Zika response as well as efforts aimed at the opioid crisis.
He has been a top health adviser to Biden on the campaign and is the co-chair of his coronavirus advisory board.