Biden selects CA attorney general Xavier Becerra for HHS secretary

December 7, 2020: Joe Biden selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nominee for secretary of health and human services.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) is the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election. The Electoral College will meet on December 14, 2020, to vote for the next president of the United States.

In 2016, there were 1,714 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,242 positions required Senate confirmation and 472 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.

Appointments and Nominations

Biden announced key health and COVID-19 positions in his administration on Monday.  

Xavier Becerra, secretary of health and human services

Becerra is the attorney general of California. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 terms, where he was a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Social Security, and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. 

Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general

Murthy previously served as U.S. surgeon general during the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017 after being confirmed 51-43 by the U.S. Senate. He is a physician and former vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Walensky is the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, where her research has focused on HIV/AIDS.

Biden also announced the following four positions:

  • Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chairwoman of the COVID-19 Equity Task Force
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser on COVID-19 and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • Jeff Zients, coordinator of the COVID-19 response and counselor to the president
  • Natalie Quillian, deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 response


  • Politico reported that Lily Eskelsen García, the former president of the National Education Association, has secured the support of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda for secretary of education and consulted with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former secretary of education.
  • “A transition aide familiar with the process said Eskelsen García’s chances of clinching the nomination have improved since fellow union leader Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers personally endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for the Democratic presidential nomination just ahead of Super Tuesday,” Politico reported.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.), Cedric Richmond (La.), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.) will co-chair Biden’s inaugural committee.

Transition in Context: What is an agency review team?

Agency review teams are established by incoming administrations to evaluate the current operations, budgets, and regulations of federal agencies, commissions, and councils. They help support the transition between administrations.

The Biden Transition’s agency review teams are primarily volunteers. There are also a few full-time employees hired by the transition and detailees funded by the General Services Administration.

The Biden Transition established more than three dozen agency review teams, covering groups from Arts and Humanities to the Department of State to the United States Postal Service. 

What We’re Reading

The Washington Post: Under Biden, NOAA’s profile is set to rise as climate change takes center stage