Senate confirms Becerra for HHS secretary with 50-49 vote

March 19, 2021: The Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as secretary of health and human services on Thursday by a vote of 50-49.

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 confirmed Xavier Becerra as secretary of health and human services on Thursday by a vote of 50-49. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) was the only Republican to support his confirmation. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) did not vote. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will name Becerra’s replacement for California attorney general. 


  • Biden issued a proclamation on Thursday ordering flags be flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the March 16, 2021, Atlanta shooting.
  • Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) are postponing an event on their Help is Here Tour to meet with Asian-American and Pacific Islander leaders in Atlanta on Friday to discuss threats to the community.
  • NBC News reported that the Biden administration is considering a six-month extension to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond May 1—the withdrawal deadline previously agreed to by the Trump administration and the Taliban.
  • The Biden administration is planning to send 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as part of a loan.
  • Biden is expected to select former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) as administrator of NASA. Nelson is one of the few civilians who has traveled to space, participating in a mission on board the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders have said about a comprehensive immigration bill, including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

  • “These parents bring their children, their hopes and dreams and aspirations for a better future for their children. That courage, that determination, those aspirations are American traits, and they all make America more American with all of that. Indeed, they are true and legitimate heirs, these Dreamers are, of our Founders.” – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
  • “God, no. I’m not in support of legalizing one person until you’re in control of the border.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  • “Trump really set the stage and said, ‘Immigration is going to be an issue for the future of the Republican Party. And we’re against it.’” – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
  • “The concern is, as soon as you bring something up to even start discussing it, you’re going to get a surge. So if you’re not ready to really do it, you shouldn’t play with that. I don’t hear us ready to do it.” – Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

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