Conservatives call Biden pick for HHS Xavier Becerra an 'extremist,' oppose nomination

The memo is expected to be sent to every Republican member of Congress

EXCLUSIVE: More than 100 conservatives are voicing opposition to Xavier BecerraPresident Biden’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, calling him an "extremist" who would carry a liberal agenda if confirmed.

The Conservative Action Project spearheaded a memo, obtained by Fox News, outlining the concerns of dozens of conservatives. The memo is expected to be sent to every Republican member of Congress Monday afternoon, along with conservative organizations.

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"Conservatives oppose the confirmation of Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services," the memo read. "No federal agency has more influence over policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity, and religious liberty than HHS."

"Becerra has a troubling record on all of these fronts," they wrote. "He is an extremist nominee who will carry the agendas of liberal dark money groups to his administration post if confirmed."

A number of high-profile conservatives like former director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought, former acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and former Secretary of Energy under the Reagan administration Donald Paul Hodel, among others, signed the memo.

The memo slams Becerra, highlighting his vote during his time in Congress "against a ban on partial-birth abortion, against making it a crime to hurt an unborn child during the perpetration fo another crime, and against efforts to bar minors from being driven across state lines for an abortion without parental consent."

"He has consistently voted in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions," they also wrote.

The group then slammed Becerra saying he "used the courts to torment an order of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to try and force them to pay for abortifacients against their religious faith."

"Such actions are consistent with Becerra’s distorted view of religious liberty, which he has stated he believes is ‘for the individual,’ and that organizations or institutions staking a claim to religious liberty is ‘bootstrapping the First Amendment,’" they wrote.

They went on to say that Becerra "has also displayed dubious judgment."

"As Attorney General of California, he was accused multiple times of using his office to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood and other political allies," they wrote. "In 2020, the state district attorneys faulted him for failing to do more to stop a massive fraud in California’s unemployment benefits."

The conservatives also pointed to Becerra’s support of "environmental justice" and his moves to file dozens of lawsuits opposing the Trump administration’s de-regulatory agenda regarding climate and energy.

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"President Biden has indicated that each executive agency will focus on climate regardless of statutory remit, and Becerra is thus likely to engage an aggressive climate agenda outside of the purview of HHS," they wrote.

"Becerra has shown neither the judgment, character, or respect for human life necessary to lead the agency with such influence over the foundational rights of all Americans," they continued. "Under his watch, we believe HHS – an agency that should protect human life, dignity, and enshrine the values of religious liberty – would be weaponized toward partisan and destructive ends."

They added: "For all these reasons, we urge the Senate to firmly reject his confirmation."

Conservative groups have also taken issue with Becerra leading HHS amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying he has "no health care experience," and instead, that a doctor or public healthcare expert should be leading the department.

Biden transition spokesman Andrew Bates defended Becerra, saying he has "decades of health care policy experience, worked with Republicans and Democrats to expand access to COVID treatments and take on opioid manufacturers, while leading the largest state department of justice in the country."

Bates added that Becerra also has a "strong record of fighting to lower costs for patients."

"That's why President Biden chose this tested, qualified leader to be at the forefront of the pandemic response and to help lower drug prices," Bates said. "We look forward to his hearings and confirmation votes." 

And White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday during her briefing said Becerra "helped play a role in getting the Affordable Care Act through" and "brings decades of health care policy experience to the table." 

Psaki pointed to Becerra's work as California attorney general, saying he "fought alongside his Republican counterparts to expand access to COVID treatments." 

Despite conservative opposition, the Biden transition team told Fox News that Becerra is looking forward to "working in good faith with members of both parties in Congress."

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Becerra, the California attorney general and former Democratic congressman, has been one of the most litigious attorneys general against the Trump administration in recent years.

He has actively pursued progressive policies in the courts. Suits brought by California under Becerra include challenges to federal rules on religious exemptions, providing contraceptives for employees, international students and online classes, the environment and immigration.

California, during Becerra's tenure as attorney general, has sued the Trump administration more than 100 times. According to the Sacramento Bee, the price tag of those lawsuits as of August was $43 million.

But despite his legal efforts against Trump, those close to Becerra, including Republicans who worked with him during his time in Congress, told Fox News that he is "respected and liked" and worked in a "bipartisan way" as attorney general and on Capitol Hill. 

"He was always very well-liked and respected on both sides of the aisle," one former Republican lawmaker told Fox News after he was nominated. "He was a good person to work with — I think that was the general sense among Republicans."

The former Republican lawmaker told Fox News that Becerra has a "soft partisan edge," and that he would be able to garner GOP votes in the Senate during a confirmation process.

Another, former Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represented Florida’s 27th District until 2019, told Fox News that she worked well with Becerra while they were in Congress and that she continues to work with him.

"While we were both House Members, I enjoyed working with Xavier on trying to establish a Latino Museum in Washington, DC and we are still working together on this important project," she told Fox News in an email.

Meanwhile, an aide to Becerra told Fox News that he is "driven by the principle that everyone who works hard can earn and get ahead."

"That’s not a Republican or Democrat value — that’s an American value," the aide said.