Image: Rep. Xavier Becerra
Charles Dharapak  /  AP
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., says he will stay in Congress rather than accept a position in Barack Obama's administration.
updated 12/17/2008 8:41:21 AM ET 2008-12-17T13:41:21

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said Tuesday he will stay in the House and pass on becoming U.S. trade representative in Barack Obama's administration.

Becerra emerged as the leading candidate for the post and interviewed with Obama earlier this month. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said he decided he wanted to stay in the House to work on various issues, including immigration reform and universal health care.

He said he'd informed the Obama team of his decision.

Becerra said he felt elated when first approached about the job, but that ultimately "I wasn't sure if at the end I only wanted to be focused on trade."

Becerra, who was just elected to his ninth term representing Los Angeles, faced competing pressures in considering whether to accept the Cabinet post.

He is moving up the ladder on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that writes taxes and oversees health care and trade, and was just chosen vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

It could be difficult for another Latino to immediately replace Becerra in the House Democratic leadership. Becerra said he heard from members of the Latino community who wanted to ensure he was involved as Congress grapples with immigration, health care, tax code reform and other issues.

"You all of a sudden find how much you're really wanted," Becerra said.

Becerra also had his family to think about. His wife, Carolina Reyes, is a physician in Los Angeles, and he has three daughters, aged 15, 13, and 10, who live there, too.

With Becerra removing himself from contention, other names circulating for the trade job include former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, also said to be under consideration to become transportation secretary.

Kirk declined to comment Tuesday in response to an e-mail from the AP. An Obama transition spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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