The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will gear up for its second day of confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden nominee Xavier Becerra to be the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Yesterday, The Federalist highlighted Becerra’s ardent pro-choice stance, particularly in regard to partial-birth abortions. Today, it is time to turn back the clock to 1997 Cuba, when then-Rep. Becerra, D-Calif., met with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and failed to take action on loosening the trade embargo with the communist state. He also refused to call for free elections in Cuba.
As reported by Fox News, Becerra insulted several members of Congress by his visit to Cuba, such as Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who then resigned from the House Hispanic Caucus. Diaz-Balart told the press he would not be willing to participate in the Hispanic coalition until Becerra “demonstrates minimal respect for the rights of Cubans to be free and calls for free elections for that oppressed island,” as initially reported by the Los Angeles Times.
When pushed on calling for free and fair elections in socialist Cuba, Becerra did not budge. “This is an issue that the caucus doesn’t take positions on,” he said. Becerra continued to face ridicule by Congress for his failure to repudiate the repressive Castro regime, but seemingly never understood the rationale behind those who left the House Hispanic Caucus.
“I’m very disappointed that the two members decided to take this action. I consider them friends,” Becerra said. “And I know that they are very passionate about the issue. Certainly, it — the whole issue of Cuba is one that the caucus, because there has not been a strong consensus, has decided not to take on. I — as the new chair of the caucus, it was not my intention to change that policy either. They chose, however, to make it an issue.”
Becerra has been notably soft on Cuba, particularly in 2007, when he supported an amendment put forth by New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel to urge President George W. Bush to lift the ban on travel to Cuba, as well as foster trade. The amendment failed to pass 245-182.
“The message is very clear,” Diaz-Balart said at the time. “There will be no possibility of a relaxation of sanctions until there is a democratic constitution in Cuba.”
As of today, it appears moderate Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are undecided on their Becerra vote. GOP senators will face off with the progressive HHS nominee, aiming to throw a wrench in his confirmation.