The Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the selection of Xavier Becerra to be the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The HELP Committee is one of two committees that review the nomination for HHS. The HELP hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at 10:00 AM (430 Dirksen Senate Office Building). The following day the Senate Finance Committee will hold hearings. That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, also at 10:00 AM.


Becerra, currently the California Attorney General, was selected by President Biden in December. As Attorney General, he has led an effort by several attorneys general in defense of the ACA when that case was argued before the Supreme Court this past November. If the Court were to strike down or limit the ACA somehow, Becerra would be the key cabinet member involved in any fix. The Trump Administration had supported the repeal before the Court.

That position was reversed, with the Biden Administration withdrawing that position.


Becerra was a Congress member serving on the House Ways and Means Committee, including a stint on the Subcommittee on Human Resources, the subcommittee (now called the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee) that deals with child welfare issues.


Past child welfare-related actions include: 2001 signing onto the Minority Report by House Democrats calling on the House to fully fund the reauthorization of Promoting Safe and Stable Families at the Administration’s proposed $505 million in mandatory funding instead of the Committee adoption of a $305 million reauthorization; in 2003 he cosponsored H.R. 625, the Child Poverty Reduction Act that would have made poverty reduction a purpose of the TANF law; also in 2003 he cosponsored H.R. 624, the Chance to Succeed Act that would have amended the TANF work requirements to include as a work activity services to address barriers to work including substance abuse treatment, physical rehabilitation, and mental health, and developmental disabilities services.


While the Senate was moving on to the Secretary position, President Biden nominated a new head for the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Chiquita Brooks-Lasure is currently working as a consultant through Manatt Health Services and focuses on state consultation. Her government service includes work in the Obama Administration as a deputy director overseeing the ACA market places. Before that, she worked for the House Ways and Means Committee as a health care specialist. A position that likely brought her into contact with Becerra.


While HHS still awaits a Secretary, several lower level (non-senate confirming) positions were announced last week. In addition to the early announcement of Sean McCluskie, Chief of Staff other selections included: Anne Reid, Deputy Chief of Staff, Dawn O’Connell, Senior Counselor. In the executive office, several COVID-19 positions were added, including Sarah Despres, Counselor for Public Health and Science; Kathryn Alvarez, Deputy Chief of Staff, David Kessler, Chief Science Officer, for COVID Response; AJ Pearlman, Chief of Staff; and Clare Pierce-Wrobel, Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff.


For other departments and agencies: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Josh Peck, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement, Ian Sams, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (COVID Response). Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Kimberly Espinosa, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Kelsey Mellette, Special Assistant. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Ben Sommers, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

Kacey Wulff, Chief of Staff. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Max Lesko, Chief of Staff for the Surgeon General. Office of the General Counsel, Lisa Barclay, Deputy General Counsel, Paul Rodriguez, Deputy General Counsel. Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Marvin Figueroa, Director Yvanna Cancela, Principal Deputy Director Destiny Gregg, Confidential Assistant. Administration for Community Living, Alison Barkoff, Principal Deputy Administrator Reyma McCoy McDeid, Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities.


For the Administration for Children and Families, Larry Handerhan, Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor, Jose Garibay Medrano, Special Assistant for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Lanikque Howard, Director of the Office of Community Services and Senior Advisor on Asset Building Jenifer Smyers, Chief of Staff for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.