As a nun who led one of the largest national Catholic health care organizations in the country, I know that no other federal agency works as much to protect and advance the health and well-being of families as the Department of Health and Human Services.
That's why I was relieved and thrilled when President Joe Biden announced his intention in December to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a leader whose character is rooted in his Catholic upbringing and values, to be secretary of health and human services. I know he is the right person to lead the agency in this moment, as he showed at his confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claimed on the Senate floor that Becerra's health care experience was limited to suing those "who dare to live out their religious convictions" — a reference to the involvement of Becerra's office, along with officials from other states, in lawsuits defending the women's health-related provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Skeptics like McConnell, driven mostly by this issue, seem to think Becerra lacks the family values that are inherently Catholic — but I know far better. Becerra comes from a long faith tradition and values integrity, hard work and treating everyone with dignity and respect. He has dedicated his life to public service and to improving the lives of the families he serves.
Xavier Becerra’s Catholic faith underpins his dedication to ensuring every family has both dignity and access to health care.
As our country continues to battle a deadly pandemic, we need his leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services now more than ever.
Becerra has a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of the health care system — a knowledge hard-earned through his decades in public service. His work on drafting, passing and protecting the Affordable Care Act is proof of his experience in health care policy and his commitment to getting Americans the health care they need. This experience is invaluable, and it makes him uniquely suited to serve as health and human services secretary.
I have long advocated for health care reform, including the Affordable Care Act that Becerra helped craft. I remember being in meetings with him back when he represented California in Congress. I was moved by his commitment to getting people health care coverage, no matter their circumstances. He knew that everyone deserves health care and made sure that no one was left out when he was writing the bill.
Later, when he became California's attorney general, he worked hard to defend the law against efforts to eliminate it or minimize its impact on all the people it helped, all of which came from baseless legal challenges.
Becerra comes from a long faith tradition and values integrity, hard work and treating everyone with dignity and respect.
Xavier Becerra's Catholic faith underpins his dedication to ensuring that every family has both dignity and access to health care. Both are especially important during the coronavirus pandemic, which has laid bare some of the worst inequities in our health care system. Communities of color are experiencing the worst of Covid-19, including disproportionately higher infection rates, more severe cases, higher death rates and less access to vaccinations. Becerra is committed to ending these inequities in Covid-19 care and pursuing a more just health care system for all Americans in the long term.
So many Americans are facing health challenges tied to this public health crisis, which is why we need a leader at HHS who understands the importance of access to care for everyone.
Because of his parents' immigrant experience, Becerra saw in his own life the challenges that families at all income levels face. His parents instilled in him not only his strong faith, but also the importance of working hard and the dignity of all humans who are created in the image of God.
I believe this experience informed his belief that everyone deserves health care.
Becerra has long said he is driven by the belief that everyone who works hard in our country deserves an opportunity to get ahead, including being able to send their children to college and to retire with dignity. That is both a Catholic value and an American value; protecting that value starts with protecting our loved ones' health.
We need a secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services who knows that everyone deserves access to health care — period. Xavier Becerra's decades of experience, strong faith tradition and life of public service make him the perfect fit to bring our country through this catastrophe and ensure a healthy future for all Americans. He is a highly qualified nominee who knows what's at stake in this country, and the Senate should ignore these spurious attacks on his character and instead move quickly to confirm him.