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Democratic senators have finally scheduled a hearing for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination to be Health and Human Services Secretary – a hearing that is sure to provoke some partisan fighting.

While the Senate moved quickly to confirm many of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks, Becerra’s nomination has notably remained off the books until now. It’s especially stood out since the Health and Human Services Secretary has jurisdiction over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other departments with significant responsibilities during a global pandemic.

Becerra is unpopular among Senate Republicans due to his more than 100 lawsuits against the administration of former President Donald Trump, and Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, have criticized his pro-choice stances on abortion. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, has said Becerra is on the “extreme left.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee scheduled Becerra’s hearing for Feb. 23. Becerra will also have to be confirmed by the Senate Finance Committee, and a spokesman for that committee told McClatchy they would announce that hearing “later this week.”

If both committees confirm Becerra, the full Senate can then vote to confirm him. Democratic senators can confirm him without Republican support. However, if even one Democrat joined all Republicans in voting against his nomination, then Becerra would lose out on the job.


With one month until the deadline, recall organizers say they have the 1.5 million signatures needed to put the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom on the ballot.

But county election officials still need to verify the signatures, and based on a January 27 report from the Secretary of State’s Office, about 85% of signatures submitted are approved. Recallers say the goal is to reach 2 million signatures before the March 17 deadline, just to be safe.

Speaking of signatures, you should know that California isn’t giving the recall an undue level of scrutiny despite the claims of “Hercules” actor Kevin Sorbo.


Recently elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has resigned from the influential California District Attorneys Association, citing among other things the organization’s support for litigation opposing Gascón’s policies.

“CDAA continues to be a member organization solely for those willing to toe the ‘tough on crime’ line. For the rest of us, it is a place that fails to support us, our communities, or the pursuit of justice,” Gascón said in a statement, which was shared on Twitter by Matt Ferner, editor-in-chief of The Appeal.

Gascón blasted the CDAA over its lack of people of color on its 17-member board.

“This is the leadership that sets the direction for an organization of elected prosecutors, all of whom disproportionately prosecute communities of color at a time when the nation is facing a reckoning over systemic racism, and in a state with a plurality of minorities no less,” Gascón wrote.

Gascón criticized the organization’s opposition of criminal justice reforms, including Proposition 47, which California voters approved in 2014 and which re-classified several felony offenses as misdemeanors. Gascón was a co-author of that initiative.

“I had long hoped that CDAA would evolve and come to embrace commonsense criminal justice reforms backed by data, science and research that will make our communities safer and stronger. Instead, CDAA has dug its heels in, rejected science, and willingly turned a blind eye to a two-tiered criminal justice system that places communities of color and poor defendants at a clear disadvantage,” Gascón wrote.

Reached for response, CDAA President Vern Pierson said in an email, “Mr. Gascon cannot resign because he has not been a member of CDAA (October 2019) when he resigned from his position as the DA of San Francisco. On the ethnicity issue, that is pretty disingenuous, as he ran against the the first sitting Los Angeles District Attorney who was both a woman and African American. Incidentally, she was a CDAA board officer and in line to become president.”


Black students in California are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than their peers. The suspension rates for Black students has declined in recent years due to policy reforms, but is still higher than the suspension rates of other racial groups.

Keiona Williamson, the editor of The Sacramento Bee’s Equity Lab, will moderate a discussion titled “Black Minds Matter” at 1 p.m. Wednesday on this important topic. A panel of policy makers and experts will provide solutions on how schools and education leaders can push forward needed changes.

The panel includes California Secretary of State Shirley Weber; state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond; Joseph Johnson, Jr., executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University; and Daniel Lee, deputy superintendent of equity at the California Department of Education.

Access to the event is available at this Zoom link. RSVPs are required and space is limited.

If the Zoom event is full, overflow access will be available on YouTube at this link.


“Cancel culture and the efforts to silence differing opinions and voices should be a growing concern for all of us. A climate of intolerance has been established and has stifled healthy and normal debate. Anyone who values their own freedom of speech should be concerned. This cannot and should not be allowed to continue.”

– Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Murrieta, in a statement announcing legislation to make political affiliation a protected status.

Best of the Bee:

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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