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Thune: Xavier Becerra is a Threat to Religious Liberty, Wrong Person to Lead Health Department

“Xavier Becerra is not a mainstream candidate. He is an extremist who has used the offices he has held to advance an aggressively pro-abortion agenda and to target religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”

March 11, 2021

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), today expressed his strong opposition to Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee to be HHS secretary. Thune acknowledged that Becerra does not represent the views of the majority of Americans on abortion, but rather the views of the radical, pro-abortion wing of the Democrat Party. Becerra supports abortion without restriction and holds an aggressively pro-abortion agenda. Thune urged his colleagues to join him in opposing Becerra’s nomination.  


Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, I’ve voted for a number of President Biden’s nominees.

“His nominee for treasury secretary.  For defense secretary.  For attorney general.  For director of national intelligence.  For agriculture secretary.  And more.

“His candidates were not the ones I would have picked if I were president.

“But I believe it’s important for our country that our president have a team in place.

“And as long as a president’s nominees aren’t raising serious concerns, I think a president of either party is entitled to have the people he or she chooses serving in his or her administration.

“But by the same token, if a president’s nominee does raise serious concerns, I think we have a responsibility as senators to oppose him or her.

“And today, Mr. President, I rise to oppose the president’s nominee to head the department of Health and Human Services.

“A number of President Biden’s nominees have been qualified, mainstream candidates. 

“Xavier Becerra is not a mainstream candidate.

“He is an extremist who has used the offices he has held to advance an aggressively pro-abortion agenda and to target religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

“Mr. Becerra does not represent the views of a majority of Americans – he represents the views of the radical pro-abortion wing of the Democrat Party.

“Mr. President, the Planned Parenthood wing of the Democrat Party would like Americans to believe that unrestricted abortion on demand, up to the moment of birth, is a no-brainer – an unqualified good.

“But the truth is, despite decades of trying to convince Americans of this, Americans simply don’t agree.

“Just 29 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all circumstances.

“The vast majority of Americans believe that abortion should either be illegal or that there should be at least some restrictions on abortion – undoubtedly because on some level every American is aware that when we talk about abortion we’re talking about killing a human being.

“Mr. Becerra, on the other hand, does not seem to support any restrictions on abortion – if he does I would sure like to hear about them.

“As a congressman he earned perfect ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

“He assembled an overwhelmingly pro-abortion voting record, even opposing a ban on partial-birth abortion – a procedure so heinous and repulsive it is difficult to even describe.

“And as California attorney general, he aggressively crusaded in favor of abortion.

“He is known for defending California’s law forcing crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortion – a case he lost at the Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds. 

“But his activities were hardly limited to California abortion law.

“This was not a case of an attorney general simply defending the laws of his own state.


“As California attorney general, Mr. Becerra repeatedly inserted himself into abortion debates in other states.

“He joined other attorneys general to file amicus briefs challenging abortion laws in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other states.

“And he frequently led these efforts himself – a fact he proudly highlighted in press releases. 

“Mr. President, Mr. Becerra’s extremist views on abortion would be enough of a red flag.

“But to that we have to add Mr. Becerra’s record on religious liberty and freedom of conscience – most famously his efforts to force religious people (including nuns) to offer health insurance benefits that violate their religious beliefs. 

“Now, at his Finance Committee hearing, Mr. Becerra tried to downplay his actions in this case.

“I never sued an order of nuns, he claimed.

“I’ve sued the federal government.

“Well, that’s an answer only a lawyer could love, Mr. President.

“Yes, he didn’t sue nuns, he sued the federal government – to force nuns and other religious people to offer health insurance benefits that violate their consciences. 

“That was the aim of his lawsuit, Mr. President.

“To force nuns – and other religious Americans – to act contrary to their consciences.

“And when an order of nuns – the Little Sisters of the Poor – joined the case in an effort to ensure their right to live according to their faith was protected, Mr. Becerra apparently had no hesitation in continuing his suit.

“Mr. President, Mr. Becerra’s extremist views on abortion and his record on religious liberty would be troubling in any nominee.

“But they would matter a lot less if we were talking about a nominee for, say, secretary of transportation.

“But that’s not what we’re talking about.

“We are talking about putting Mr. Becerra in charge of a Cabinet department entrusted with interpreting and applying laws protecting religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

“And nothing I have seen suggests to me that Mr. Becerra can be relied on to provide robust protection for these cherished rights.

“In fact, I am profoundly concerned that Mr. Becerra would use his office to limit Americans’ religious freedom.

“Under Mr. Becerra’s HHS, are nuns going to be forced to offer health insurance benefits that violate their religious faith?

“Will health care professionals be protected from having to perform procedures – like abortions – that violate their consciences?

“Given Mr. Becerra’s record, I’m concerned about the answers to these questions.

“In fact, Mr. President, there’s reason to be concerned that a prime reason for nominating Mr. Becerra was his radical abortion advocacy and his attacks on religious liberty.

“It’s difficult to find another reason for nominating Mr. Becerra during a global health emergency.

“Mr. Becerra is not a doctor.

“He has not worked in the health care field.

“He is not a virologist or a vaccine expert.

“He does not have a background in public health.

“It’s not unreasonable to conclude that his appeal to the abortion left – one of the most powerful interest groups in the Democrat Party – was a prime reason for his nomination.

“NARAL and Planned Parenthood certainly gave credence to that idea with their enthusiastic statements in support of Mr. Becerra, which highlighted his aggressive abortion advocacy.

“I also have to say that it’s pretty interesting to nominate someone to head HHS who in his last job proudly sued HHS repeatedly. 

“Mr. President, I know President Biden is a man of faith.

“But he is doing a great disservice to people of faith – and to the First Amendment – with this nomination.

“He is also doing a disservice to the American people by nominating a candidate whose views on abortion are so radical and so out of step with the views of most Americans.

“Mr. President, days ago, three of my Democrat colleagues broke ranks with their party to stand up for the many, many Americans who don’t want their tax dollars going to pay for abortions.

“I urge them, and all of my colleagues, to join me in opposing the nomination of Xavier Becerra.”