WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has chosen Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who’s now the Democratic legal professional common of California, as his nominee for secretary of well being and human providers, ending a politically delicate search that introduced complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus a couple of lack of Latinos within the incoming cupboard.
Mr. Becerra grew to become Mr. Biden’s clear alternative solely over the previous couple of days, in keeping with individuals acquainted with the transition’s deliberations, and was a shock. He has carved out a profile extra on the problems of legal justice, immigration and tax coverage, and he was lengthy considered a candidate for legal professional common.
However as legal professional common in California, he led authorized efforts on well being care, together with searching for to guard the Reasonably priced Care Act from being dismantled by Republican attorneys common. He has additionally been a number one voice within the Democratic Occasion for girls’s well being.
If confirmed, he’ll instantly face a frightening activity in main the division at a important second throughout a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States — and one which has taken a very devastating toll on individuals of shade.
Mr. Becerra, 62, served 12 phrases in Congress, representing Los Angeles, earlier than turning into the legal professional common of his residence state in 2017. He’s the primary Latino to carry that workplace, and whereas in Congress he was the primary Latino to function a member of the Methods and Means Committee. He additionally led the Home Democratic Caucus, which gave him a robust management put up.
Born in Sacramento, Mr. Becerra grew up in a working-class household; his mom emigrated from Mexico. Neither of his dad and mom “had a lot formal education,” in keeping with an official, and he was the primary in his household to graduate from faculty. He attended Stanford as an undergraduate and obtained his regulation diploma there in 1984.
Whereas in Congress, he was a fierce advocate for the Latino group, and have become deeply concerned in efforts to overtake the nation’s immigration system. He additionally promoted a nationwide museum dedicated to exploring the tradition and historical past of American Latinos. The House voted this year to create such a museum.
Nevertheless it was beneath his management that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus misplaced its bipartisan membership. Within the late Nineteen Nineties, Mr. Becerra traveled to Cuba and visited with its chief, Fidel Castro, which infuriated Republican members of the caucus. They resigned, saying they were “personally insulted” by the visit.
Mr. Biden’s number of Mr. Becerra comes because the president-elect is beneath rising strain from the Latino group to diversify his cupboard. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico had been considered in line for the well being secretary’s job, however she apparently fell out of the operating. As a substitute, information leaked final week that Ms. Lujan Grisham was provided, and turned down, the place of inside secretary.
The leak prompted Senator-elect Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico to use a private meeting with prime Biden advisers to rebuke the incoming White Home chief of employees, Ron Klain, and different senior Biden officers for his or her remedy of Ms. Lujan Grisham, in keeping with a Democrat acquainted with the dialogue.
Mr. Luján’s frustration revealed a broader concern that few Latinos have been chosen for high-ranking positions within the Biden administration. Alejandro N. Mayorkas, a Cuban-American and the nominee for secretary of homeland safety, has been the one Hispanic chosen for a cupboard job.