Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for Health & Human Services Secretary, was finally confirmed after months of Senate Republicans trying — and failing — to sink his nomination 

FLASHBACK: Top Republicans said Becerra was top target, “ought to be the one who goes down”

Accountable Senate War Room has spent months calling out the motivations behind Senate Republicans’ opposition: their special interest donors

The strongest opposition for his confirmation came from Senate Republicans who have taken more than $6.8 million from Big Pharma, an industry Becerra held accountable for price gouging and other malpractice as California’s Attorney General 

Accountable Senate War Room: “It’s no secret why Senate Republicans took aim at Becerra’s confirmation: from deep inside the pockets of Big Pharma and with wealthy donors to please, they felt threatened by Becerra’s track record and promise to work for the American people”

Washington, D.C. – Today, Xavier Becerra was confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), despite an aggressive campaign by Republican senators and right-wing groups to try to sink his nomination. The baseless attacks and blatant hypocrisy of the opposition to Becerra fell flat with the American people as it became increasingly clear that many of Becerra’s antagonists in the Senate are backed by Big Pharma — an industry Becerra has taken on in the past. As HHS Secretary, Becerra will upend the status quo that benefits special interests and has committed to prioritizing patients and working families.

“It’s no secret why Senate Republicans took aim at Becerra’s confirmation: from deep inside the pockets of Big Pharma and with wealthy donors to please, they felt threatened by Becerra’s track record and promise to work for the American people,” said Mairead Lynn, spokesperson for Accountable Senate War Room. “From the outset, Republican senators made up attack after attack — sometimes contradicting each other — in an attempt to keep the focus on anything but Becerra’s strong record. It’s no surprise that the American people didn’t buy this charade, and we congratulate Xavier Becerra on his confirmation. During the worst health crisis in modern history, he’ll be joining the slate of Biden’s crisis-tested Cabinet to continue working on tackling this pandemic and getting the American people back to their lives.” 

From nearly the moment Becerra was announced, Senate Republicans made it clear they’d try any trick in the book to sink this nomination. The attacks waged against Becerra started from individual senators, like John Cornyn (R-TX), who claimed he was concerned that Becerra was not a pharmaceutical executive, and Tom Cotton (R-AR) who launched a series of bad faith advertisements against Becerra — which were quickly exposed as false and misleading by Accountable Senate War Room in a series of ads that set the record straight. The attempts to sink Becerra’s nomination quickly became a coordinated effort amongst many Republican senators who depicted Becerra as a “radical”— a line of attack used far more for nominees of color than white nominees, according to analysis by the Accountable Senate War Room — and made extreme and inaccurate claims about his positions on issues like reproductive health care. Becerra faced two days of aggressive questioning from Senate Republicans who treated him more like a hostile witness than a distinguished nominee to serve in a presidential administration, all in an effort to appease their Big Pharma donors. 

Accountable Senate War Room takes a look back at the obstruction Becerra faced as a reminder of just how far Senate Republicans are willing to go for their Big Pharma special interest donors: 

Leading up to hearing:

  • After Becerra’s nomination was announced, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said the quiet part out loud when he admitted he preferred a Health secretary with ties to the pharmaceutical industry like Trump’s former HHS Secretary and former Pharma exec Alex Azar.
    • Cornyn has taken over $1.7 million from the health sector, including $1 million from the pharmaceutical industry, and has frequently sided with the pharmaceutical industry in the past, including switching his vote to bring more affordable generic drugs to the market amid a fierce lobbying battle. Cornyn also gutted his own bill that would have allowed the FTC to go after pharmaceutical companies. 
  • Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) claimed to be concerned with whether Becerra would be willing to take on the health care industry — in direct contrast from Cornyn’s statements — ignoring his own ties to the industry and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s accepted over the course of his career. Braun later switched gears and tried out another line of attack in Becerra’s hearing, joining his colleagues in trying to paint Becerra as “extreme.”
    • Braun has taken over $436,000 from the health industry, including over $105,000 from Big Pharma.
  • In the early stages of Becerra’s nomination, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) refused to answer whether he thought Becerra and other Biden nominees deserved a floor vote in the Senate. Before his career in politics, Scott was an executive at a health care company  which was forced to pay $1.7 billion in fines after committing the nation’s largest health care fraud scheme at the time
    • Scott has taken nearly $1 million from the health sector, including over $101,000 from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Heritage Action for America, a far-right group with a track record of working on behalf of PhRMA, including advocating against lowering the cost of prescription drugs, released a $500,000 ad buy to oppose Becerra’s confirmation. 
    • Heritage has taken at least $375,000 from PhRMA and does their bidding in Washington.
  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell obstructed the confirmation process by delaying a simple organizing resolution for weeks, halting committees’ important work and leaving Becerra’s confirmation at a standstill.
    • McConnell has taken over $9 million from the health sector, including over $1.7 million from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to Becerra’s nomination from nearly the moment it was announced, and used Fox News to propagate extreme and inaccurate claims about Becerra’s positions on reproductive health. 
    • Paul has taken over $2 million from the health sector, including over $132,000 from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) flat out rejected any possibility of a speedy confirmation process for then President-elect Biden’s nominees while Republicans still had control of the Senate during the lame-duck period, slowing the entire process down and preventing the new administration from being able to hit the ground running. 
    • Grassley has taken over $3.7 million from the health sector, including nearly $1 million from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) released false and misleading attack ads regarding Becerra’s record in Georgia and New Hampshire on behalf of his special interest donors. 
    • Cotton has taken over $121,000 from the pharmaceutical industry and over $422,000 from the insurance industry 
    • Accountable Senate War Room responded to Sen. Cotton’s bad-faith attacks to set the record straight in an ad that exposed his loyalty to Big Pharma.
  • Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted his opposition to the nominee, claiming his concern with Becerra was because “he’s never worked at a pharmaceutical company.” Cruz voted in support of President Trump’s nominee for HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, a former lawyer and Big Pharma executive. 
    • Cruz has taken over $5.7 million from the health sector, including over $605,000 from the pharmaceutical industry. 

During Hearing: 

  • Senator John Thune (R-SD) referred to Becerra as “an extremist.”  
    • Thune has taken over $2.4 million from the health sector, including over $410,000 from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) questioned Becerra’s qualifications, stating, “I am not sure that you have the appropriate respect for the private sector and innovation and intellectual property needed to bring more exciting treatments and cures to save lives in this country.” Burr, who was recently under federal investigation for insider trading, has been accused of “pay-to-play” politics by ProPublica who named him “one of the health care industry’s staunchest friends” by consistently pushing legislation to benefit them — including overseeing “the implementation of major legislation to pump taxpayer money into private sector initiatives to address public health threats.”
    • Burr has taken over $4.8 million from the health sector, including over $1.5 million from the pharmaceutical industry. 
  • Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) made a show out of his questioning when he aggressively questioned Becerra’s role in a lawsuit involving an order of nuns, claiming they were forced to pay for contraceptives — an issue that has been referred to as a “bald-faced lie” by the LA Times
    • Sasse has received over $723,000 from the health sector, including over $205,000 from the pharmaceutical industry.  

Accountable Senate War Room has been holding Senate Republicans accountable throughout Becerra’s confirmation process. Below are some examples of that work: 

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