Joe Biden checked two Democratic boxes—Hispanic and lefty—on Monday by tapping California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run Health and Human Services. Progressives are ecstatic, but Mr. Becerra’s views and lack of health-care experience are cause for close Senate confirmation scrutiny.
The Democratic identity politics crowd has been clamoring for Mr. Biden to appoint another Hispanic to his cabinet in addition to Alejandro Mayorkas at Homeland Security. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo had been a top contender for HHS, but she was vetoed by progressives as too white, too moderate and apparently also too qualified.
Mr. Becerra is none of those. The AG served 24 years in the House before being selected in 2016 by former Gov. Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris after she was elected to the Senate. In Congress he was a staunch progressive, co-sponsoring Medicare for All bills before the idea was in Democratic fashion.
He signed a letter in 2016 urging the Obama HHS to use “march-in rights” to invalidate drug-maker patents for medicines whose research was partly government funded. This could encompass most drugs. Earlier this year he pushed the Trump Administration to confiscate Gilead’s patent for its Covid antiviral remdesivir.
Mr. Becerra has no expertise in how drug and insurance markets function, let alone experience running a health-care bureaucracy. His apparent primary qualification is that he’s filed 100 some lawsuits against the Trump Administration, though he’s won relatively few and lost on health-care issues. In 2017 Obama-appointed federal Judge Vince Chhabria slapped down his lawsuit against the Trump Administration for ending cost-sharing reduction subsidies that Congress never appropriated and had to give the AG a tutorial in the Affordable Care Act and insurance markets.