Senate agrees to advance Becerra nomination after deadlocked committee vote

March 12, 2021: The Senate voted to discharge Xavier Becerra’s nomination for secretary of health and human services from the Senate Finance Committee.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 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 administration.

  • The Senate agreed to discharge the nomination of Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services on Thursday after he did not receive a recommendation from the Senate Committee on Finance. The 51-48 vote sets Becerra up for a potential confirmation vote next week. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined the Democrats in supporting the discharge petition.


  • Biden announced on Thursday that he is directing all states to expand eligibility for coronavirus vaccines to all individuals over the age of 18 by May 1. For more information about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
  • Biden is meeting virtually with leaders from the Quad on Friday. This coalition, formed following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, includes three other democratic, Indo-Pacific countries: Japan, India, and Australia.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about keeping, reforming, or eliminating the filibuster in the Senate.

  • “The Senate needs to abolish the filibuster. Right now, the Senate has 50 Republican senators. They represent less than 44% of America. And yet they still have the power to stop us from passing laws that a majority of America wants. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and to be honest I started out believing we should keep the filibuster. Without it, I reasoned, what would stop a conservative president and Congress from doing terrible damage to women’s health care, voting rights and civil rights. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the filibuster has long been the enemy of progress. In fact, it’s been a highly effective tool to thwart the will of the people.” – Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.)
  • “Now they’re threatening to blow the place up and turn the Senate into the House, so that they can get their way, with presumably 50 Democrats voting yes and the vice president being in the chair. There is considerable reluctance on the other side to do that because people remember when they were in the minority. And what the Senate filibuster does is one of two things. Either really bad ideas don’t pass at all, or you sit down and reach a bipartisan agreement.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • “But right now, raising the minimum wage is getting bogged down in the Senate. Why? Because of the filibuster — a procedural loophole that lets an extreme minority of senators block the majority from passing bills that have the broad support of the American people. The filibuster is giving a veto to Mitch McConnell. A veto to the gun industry. A veto to the oil industry. For generations, racist senators took advantage of the filibuster to block anti-lynching laws and civil rights bills. And it’s still blocking progress today.” – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
  • “All Americans, whether or not they’re in the majority, deserve to be represented. But it’s particularly important when you consider that our country is pretty evenly split down the middle. While the advantage sometimes goes to Democrats and sometimes to Republicans, the truth is that our country is pretty evenly split. Which means any attempt to disenfranchise the minority party means disenfranchising half the country.” – Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
  • “[Biden’s] preference is not to end the filibuster. He wants to work with Republicans, to work with independents. He believes that we’re stronger when we build a broad coalition of support.” – Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director

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