Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced in a statement on Thursday that he will vote to confirm Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s pick to be secretary of Health and Human Services.
“While Attorney General Xavier Becerra and I have very different records on issues like abortion and the Second Amendment, he has affirmed to me his dedication to working with members on both sides of the aisle to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the numerous needs of our nation in a bipartisan way,” Manchin said. “I look forward to working with Attorney General Becerra to expand healthcare for rural communities and address the issues facing our nation.”
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., forced Becerra’s nomination out of the Senate Finance Committee. The invoked rule will trigger a four-hour debate in the Senate, resulting in a vote Thursday on whether to proceed. Given Manchin’s support, the Democrats will probably break the gridlock and attain a simple majority.
Becerra has been the target of much controversy in recent weeks, as conservative groups have banded together to oppose the nomination. In arguing he is a radical nominee, 60 pro-life leaders sent a letter to the Senate in February urging lawmakers to reject Becerra on the basis of his staunch pro-abortion stance. In early February, Judicial Crisis Network, Heritage Action for America, and Americans for Public Trust launched a roughly $2 million ad campaign opposing Becerra’s nomination, as well as associate attorney general nominee Vanita Gupta’s. Heritage Action has reportedly spent $500,000 in its advertisement campaign.
If all Republican senators jointly oppose Becerra’s nomination, the Democrats would require the support of every Democrat as well as Vice President Kamala Harris. Democrats reportedly on the fence include two Arizona senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, who were targeted primarily by the Heritage ads.
During Becerra’s confirmation hearings, Republicans harped on his radical abortion stance, his refusal to call for free and fair elections after meeting with dictator Fidel Castro in the ’90s, his legal action against religious groups for rejecting Affordable Care Act contraception mandates, and his lack of experience in health and human services.
Becerra contradicted himself several times during the Senate hearings, in his claim that he never sued nuns as well as in his dodging of questions on partial-birth abortion, which he has advocated for through the years.
The support of the West Virginia senator could be the next step toward Becerra’s confirmation.