After Neera Tanden's defeat, Republicans set sights on HHS nominee Becerra

Conservative group Heritage Action for America launching ad campaign targeting West Virginia, Arizona

Fresh off President Biden withdrawing Neera Tanden's nomination for head of the Office of Management and Budget, Republicans are now looking to prevent the confirmation of Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra.

Hours after Tanden requested to be removed from consideration due to opposition from both sides of the aisle, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on Becerra's nomination Wednesday morning. A number of Republicans have already voiced concern over Becerra's professional background, believing the California attorney general is not qualified to lead HHS.

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"I would've been willing to vote for somebody, absolutely, but you've got to at least know something about the subject matter," Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said after Becerra's confirmation hearing, according to The Hill.

"If I as a doctor was appointed to be the attorney general of the United States of America, what would you think? That's kind of odd," he continued.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also reportedly called Becerra’s nomination "a puzzling selection for this critical post," and Fox News has learned that Finance Committee member Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, plans to vote against Becerra.

Xavier Becerra speaks during his confirmation hearing to be secretary of Health and Human Services before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Leigh Vogel/Pool via AP)

Xavier Becerra speaks during his confirmation hearing to be secretary of Health and Human Services before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Leigh Vogel/Pool via AP) ((Leigh Vogel/Pool via AP))

If a majority of the committee — whose membership is split evenly among Democrats and Republicans — do not agree to report favorably to the Senate on Becerra's nomination, it may still opt to report without any recommendation. This would still allow the full Senate to move forward with its vote.

Timed to coincide with Wednesday's vote, conservative group Heritage Action for America is launching an ad campaign that targets West Virginia and Arizona, the homes of moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. While neither senator is on the Finance Committee, their decisions when nominations are brought to the Senate floor can be pivotal. If every Republican opposes a nominee, a no vote from either Democrat would be enough to sink a Cabinet pick.

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"Becerra has zero medical experience, unless you count suing Catholic nuns trying to force them to pay for abortions," Heritage Action for America's Arizona ad says, referencing his role in a case against the Catholic group Little Sisters of the Poor. The case dealt with requiring organizations to provide employees with insurance that covers contraception, including some that have been claimed to potentially result in early abortion. While Becerra did not initiate the lawsuit against Little Sisters of the Poor, the group did become a defendant after it intervened.

Heritage Action for America's West Virginia ad calls Becerra’s nomination "a big test for Joe Manchin," claiming that the HHS pick "wants to ban" guns. A third ad points to Becerra's support for socialized medicine and calls him "a radical partisan, an activist, not a doctor."

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When asked if the senators have reached decisions on Becerra's nomination, Sinema's office said she does not preview votes and Manchin's did not respond.  The Heritage Action for America is hoping its ad campaign will sway them to vote no, and it has already spent at least $500,000 on its ads.

"President Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, has spent his entire career fighting for socialized health care, catering to the abortion industry, trampling on Americans’ religious freedom, and pushing the policies of liberal dark money groups," Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, said in a statement. "If confirmed, he would bring his extreme agenda to HHS. Heritage Action is working to expose the radical personnel and policies being advanced by this administration, and we are urging every Senator to reject Becerra's nomination."