WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has chosen Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who’s now the Democratic legal professional normal of California, as his nominee for secretary of well being and human companies, ending a politically delicate search that introduced complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus a few lack of Latinos within the incoming cupboard.
Mr. Becerra turned Mr. Biden’s clear alternative solely over the previous few days, based on folks accustomed to the transition’s deliberations, and was a shock. He has carved out a profile extra on the problems of felony justice, immigration and tax coverage, and he was lengthy regarded as a candidate for legal professional normal.
However as legal professional normal 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 normal. He has additionally been a number one voice within the Democratic Get together for girls’s well being.
If confirmed, he’ll instantly face a frightening process in main the division at a essential 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 folks of colour.
Mr. Becerra, 62, served 12 phrases in Congress, representing Los Angeles, earlier than turning into the legal professional normal of his dwelling 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 strong management submit.
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,” based on 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.
However it was below his management that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus misplaced its bipartisan membership. Within the late 1990s, 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 below growing stress from the Latino group to diversify his cupboard. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico had been regarded as in line for the well being secretary’s job, however she apparently fell out of the operating. As an alternative, information leaked final week that Ms. Lujan Grisham was supplied, 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 high Biden advisers to rebuke the incoming White Home chief of employees, Ron Klain, and different senior Biden officers for his or her therapy of Ms. Lujan Grisham, based on a Democrat accustomed to 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.