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White House frustrated with Xavier Becerra over COVID response

The appointment of Xavier Becerra as secretary of well being and human providers has obtained a second opinion — and the analysis is just not good.

Biden administration officers are more and more frustrated with Becerra over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the Omicron variant, the Washington Post reported Monday.

The paper added that discontent has grown to the purpose that changing the previous California lawyer common as head of HHS has been overtly mentioned inside the White House.

As America enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Becerra has not often been seen or heard from — whereas chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients have been the faces of the administration’s response.

Some officers who talked to The Post accused Becerra of not pushing the administration’s technique arduous sufficient, claiming variations of opinion relating to booster photographs and isolation tips have solely brought on extra confusion.

Xavier Becerra has been accused of not pushing the administration’s technique arduous sufficient.
EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS / POOL

The paper additionally reported, citing six folks acquainted with the matter, that Zients is amongst these dissatisfied with Becerra’s efficiency and has blamed the HHS head for not guaranteeing the White House is absolutely conscious of latest steerage coming from businesses just like the CDC.

Becerra “is taking too passive a role in what may be the most defining challenge of the administration,” as one senior White House official put it.

Since being sworn into office in March 2021, Becerra has but to look on a Sunday morning tv program. By distinction, his Trump-era predecessor, Alex Azar, appeared not less than a dozen occasions on varied networks through the first year of the pandemic. 

President Biden is unlikely to dismiss Xavier Becerra.
REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

A spokesperson for Becerra denied that the secretary has stored a low profile, saying he has traveled to greater than 20 states and has appeared on TV and radio.

“Would you rather have a secretary who prioritizes TV appearances over getting tests, therapeutics and vaccines into the hands of people who need them?” the spokesperson requested. 

Becerra reportedly retains his head down inside HHS as effectively. Despite holding a morning meeting most days, he largely listens to updates relating to the pandemic as an alternative of asking questions or providing enter, in line with the Washington Post.

Despite widespread discontent with Becerra, President Biden is unlikely to dismiss him. The report signifies a change would probably anger the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and different organizations which have pushed the president to call extra Latinos to his inside circle.

Appointing a substitute for Becerra rapidly is also tough in mild of the evenly divided Senate and the added workload brought on by the latest retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Becerra’s nomination to steer HHS was closely criticized by Republicans final year, with a bunch of GOP senators declaring that he had “no meaningful experience in health care, public health, large-scale logistics, or any other areas critical to meeting our present challenges.”

Last spring, the New York Times reported that Biden himself lashed out at Becerra when he did not answer questions on how HHS was dealing with the surge in unaccompanied migrant youngsters on the US-Mexico border in late March.

White House spokesman Kevin Munoz dismissed the reported griping about Becerra as “anonymous gossip.” 

“Since Day 1, the administration has managed a strong, coordinated COVID-19 response thanks to Secretary Becerra and HHS officials at every level of government,” Munoz instructed the Washington Post. “HHS is one of the most critical agencies in this fight and we have built a coordinated operation that is working together day and night, every single day of the week.”

Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, known as Becerra a “great, thorough partner,” saying he has helped her staff “hit the ground running” to distribute exams, masks and different provides. 

“We’ve got these vaccines out, we’ve got boosters available. Tests are being delivered to American households, masks are being handed out. And the secretary has just been there to support that effort,” she stated.

Celenie Gounder, an infectious illness knowledgeable at New York University who was part of the Biden transition staff’s COVID-19 process pressure, instructed the Washington Post that it’s unclear “how much of [Becerra’s] role or non-role is driven by him versus the White House.” 

Certainly whether it’s him or the White House itself, there does need to be better coordination,” she stated. “That isn’t to say there should be suppression of certain ideas but rather coordination of different agencies. He is certainly one person who could be doing that.”

At least one adviser blamed the White House for the confusion, quite than Becerra. 

“It’s very clear to me that the White House is not looking for Becerra to be involved,” the skin adviser stated. “What you can’t do is say, ‘We’re going to run it out of the White House,’ but not be involved with the agencies. Or if there is a role for Becerra, they should articulate it to him.”

The White House has insisted that there’s fixed communication between HHS and the administration, regardless of the considerations.