President-elect Joe Biden announced several key members of his health team on Monday morning, including three new White House positions, highlighting his promise to combat the coronavirus on day one of his presidency.
Biden has selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. If confirmed, he would be the first Latino to lead the department. The 62-year-old served 12 terms in the House of Representatives and has been a big defender of the Affordable Care Act.
The New York Times was the first to report the story.
Becerra was elected in California back in 2016 to lead the largest justice department in the country, filling Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ shoes after she became a senator. Becerra would serve an important role in Biden’s response to a pandemic that has killed more than 282,000 Americans.
As the Attorney General of California, Becerra has been vocal against President Donald Trump as the state brought over hundreds of lawsuits against Mr. Trump and administration’s policies.
Becerra would bring experience to the post after serving as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.
Reports have suggested Becerra’s experience working with Republican lawmakers to increase access to new Covid-19 treatments was a key factor in Biden’s decision to tap him.
“This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor, and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives, and back to their loved ones,” Biden said in a statement.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm were also in the conversation for the post, according to several reports.
The news comes after reports Biden has been facing pressure from Congressional Hispanic Caucus to nominate Lujan Grisham, who is the first Latina to be elected governor in the United States. Members of the caucus had been pushing for Biden to name a Latino Attorney General with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez being one of the name’s brought up in a meeting last week.
Along with Becerra, Biden is also selecting Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a leading expert on virus testing, to serve as the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She currently serves as the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The President-elect has also tapped Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to be the chair of the COVID-19 Task Force. She currently serves as an Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Management at the Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s expert on infectious diseases and an adviser to six U.S. presidents, will serve as Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser. He will also be continuing his role as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Jeff Zients will serve as Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President. Prior to being selected by the President-elect, Zients was known for his success for managing large and complex initiatives.
Lastly, Natalie Quillian will serve as Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response. Quillian was a key figure in the Obama administration’s response to the opioid epidemic and she is a a national security expert and former White House and Pentagon senior advisor.
“Containing this coronavirus pandemic and opening our economy responsibly require listening to experts and leaders like the ones we are bringing together on this health care team,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said in a statement. “They are some of America’s top physicians, public health experts, and crisis-tested public servants, and they reflect the very best of our nation.”
Biden’s transition team hinted last week that more announcements are expected in the coming days.