HHS nominee Xavier Becerra oversaw Newsom's COVID lockdowns struck down by courts
President Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has come under scrutiny for enforcing California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strict coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions.
In his role as California’s Attorney General Becerra defended Newsom’s strict orders implemented to prevent the spread of the virus, some of which have been the subject of lawsuits.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Saturday tweeted out the text of a Supreme Court filing naming Becerra as a respondent, alleging he was the "legal architect" and "strict enforcer" of Newsom’s pandemic measures.
In an op-ed for Fox News, Cotton criticized Becerra for having a "zeal for lockdowns."
Newsom has issued a significant number of orders restricting business and activities as a means to control the virus – and some believe he has unfairly exercised his powers.
In November, a Sutter county judge tentatively ruled that one of the dozens of executive orders Newsom issued overstepped his authority and was "an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power."
In December, San Bernardino County filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court over renewed stay-at-home measures.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that Newsom’s ban on indoor church and worship services violated the Constitution – though limits on capacity and activities, like singing, could remain.
Between March 4 and April 22 alone, Newsom issued 32 executive orders.
Lawmakers of both political parties have criticized Newsom for not properly consulting with them before issuing sweeping orders and budget decisions.
Republican sources told Politico that the GOP plans to oppose Becerra’s nomination later this month under the guise that California’s lockdown example could become the national norm under his stewardship.
"The case we’ll make against Becerra is: He will make your life worse. He will make the pandemic worse," a senior Republican aide told the publication. "To the extent he was involved with the pandemic in California, he laid the legal groundwork for lockdowns and closing houses of worship. Becerra owns all of that."
As attorney general for the state of California, it was part of Becerra’s job as the state’s top legal officer to defend Newsom’s orders and actions so long as they are constitutional.
Republicans have urged their colleagues to oppose Becerra’s nomination for a number of other reasons, including his alleged lack of experience in the public health field, as well as his viewpoints on items ranging from Medicare-for-All to immigration and abortion.
In the two blue states often cited as the most lockdown-prone – New York and California – Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom both recently indicated they intended to begin reopening their respective state economies.
Newsom’s handling of the pandemic is believed to have lent support to a recall effort that has generated more than 1.4 million signatures of the nearly 1.5 million required by mid-March to trigger a special election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.