Commentary: Reagan Reed
When it comes to presidential cabinet nominations, I hold the perhaps unpopular view that the senate should generally give the president leeway in his cabinet picks. The role of a cabinet secretary is to advise and carry out the policies of the president. After all, if a president has just won an election to head the executive branch, he should generally be able to assemble the team he wants to work under him.
The U.S. Constitution, in the Appointments Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2), does however give the senate a roll in vetting presidential appointees. If a nominee is qualified for the position, and doesn’t have any glaring character flaws or over the top radical ideologies, the default vote should generally be to confirm, even if I disagree with them on policy. The roll the senate should play is in providing a check and blocking unqualified, corrupt, or radical nominees.
I didn’t like it when many Democrat senators indiscriminately voted against almost all of Donald Trump’s nominees, and I don’t believe Republican senators should vote indiscriminately against Biden’s nominees either.
For example, while Merrick Garland is not someone with whom I align ideologically (and I am very glad that Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court instead of him), a case can be made that he is probably the least bad choice for Attorney General that you could expect out of a Biden administration. He’s qualified for the position and doesn’t come from the far left wing of the Democratic Party, and his cabinet confirmation shouldn’t be a hill to die on for Republicans.
Then you have someone like Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick for the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden looks like the most likely of Biden’s nominees to go down, in large part due to a long history of vulgar and caustic social media posts. Not only has she antagonized conservatives, but as a hardcore Clintonista her treatment of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has angered far-left progressives as well. Tanden’s rap sheet also includes outing a sexual harassment victim and allegedly punching a reporter. With the announcement that Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is a no, Tanden is likely to be voted down, which many on the left are of course attributing to racism and sexism.
However, in my opinion Tanden is not Biden’s worst cabinet nomination. That honor would have to go to Xavier Beccera, Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services Secretary.
The fact that Becerra does not have relevant experience in healthcare or a career in any kind of related field should make him a non-starter. He’s an attorney, who after serving in Congress then became the California Attorney General.
We are in a pandemic, the greatest public health crisis in years. Now, when of all times seasoned medical experience is needed, the last thing we need is someone with no experience in healthcare at the helm of HHS.
But besides being grossly unqualified, Bacerra is a far-left crusader who holds some startlingly radical views. He is perhaps best known for suing the federal government to force nuns to pay for contraceptives. Of all the real problems he could have focused on as California AG, he went looking for a fight in the culture wars, and decided that coercing Little Sisters of the Poor into violating their religious convictions was a worthy use of his time and California taxpayers’ dollars.
Becerra is also outside the mainstream when it comes to abortion, and as a congressman he voted against a bill that would have banned partial-birth abortions. This barbaric practice is done late in a pregnancy where an abortionist will partially deliver an infant alive before puncturing the skull and suctioning out the brain.
Both of these issues are areas that have fallen under the sphere of the HHS, and both issues give us a good idea of Becerra’s ideology and the approach he would take to leading the department. In the midst of a global pandemic, HHS doesn’t need the distraction of left-wing social crusading.
Becerra is unqualified and unacceptable. Every Republican should oppose his confirmation, as should any Democrat who calls themselves a “moderate”. Yes, Tanden is unsavory, but stopping Becerra should be the big fight.