The President’s Appointees Do Most of the Work, and Joe Biden’s Will Be Bad

Xavier Becerra, nominated to run Health and Human Services, will be disastrous for life and freedom

By Edward Mechmann Published on December 15, 2020

With all the attention that we pay to the presidential election, a key point often gets lost in the static. We cast a vote for a president, but we actually elect an administration.

The vast majority of decisions made by the executive branch are not made by the president. They are made by agencies that are led by and staffed at the top levels by political appointees. The real work that affects regular people is done by the political appointees.

And Joe Biden’s appointees will be bad.

Trump’s Appointees

Trump appointees advanced policies that were very favorable for the protection of life and religious liberty. In protecting life, they blocked public funding for abortion and cut Planned Parenthood’s Tax Funding by up to $60 Million. They permitted states to defund Planned Parenthood of Title X Funds and Medicaid Funds, stopped funding abortion overseas (the Mexico City Policy), and defunded the pro-abortion U.N. Fund for Population Activities.

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The president’s appointees clarified that abortion is not a civil right under the Affordable Care Act and ended taxpayer funding for experimentation with the remains of aborted babies. Besides defunding the UNFPA, they opposed pro-abortion advocacy at the United Nations.

In protecting religious liberty, the appointees entered into settlements and issued new rules limiting the HHS Mandate. They also established the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights at HHS to enforce federal religious liberty laws. This office took action against California for violating conscience protections.

But this will change, and change radically, with President Biden’s appointees.

An Appalling Nomination

Last week, Joe Biden announced that he would nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the new head of Health and Human Services. This is a catastrophic decision.

Becerra has been an abortion extremist for many years. He has no regard for religious liberty.

His record on abortion is so terrible that it belies the line that no politician is “pro-abortion.” Becerra has never seen an abortion that he would oppose.

A walk through his record as a member of Congress from 1993 to 2017 is horrifying. Here are some of the pro-life measures that he voted against:

  • The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
  • The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
  • Limitations on taxpayer funding for abortion, including the Hyde Amendment.
  • The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (which would ban the interstate transport of a pregnant minor to obtain an abortion).
  • Bans on abortions based on race or sex.
  • The Partial-Birth/Late Term Abortion Ban.
  • Prohibition of Chemically Induced Abortion Amendment.
  • The Child Custody Protection Act (which would ban the interstate transport of a minor for an abortion in order to evade parental involvement laws).
  • Bans on abortions at military hospitals.
  • Bans on federal funding for fetal tissue research.

Anti-Life and Anti-Freedom

When Becerra became the Attorney General of California, he expanded his anti-life and anti-freedom activities. He:

  • Defended a state law that would have forced pregnancy centers to advertise and refer for abortion (losing, fortunately, in the Supreme Court).
  • Defended a state law that required religious institutions to pay for abortions through their health insurance plans.
  • Refused to enforce conscience protection laws, which led to the current HHS administration to threaten legal action against the state.
  • Joined with other state attorneys general to oppose religious exemptions to the HHS mandate — a case that is currently before the Supreme Court.
  • Pursued criminal charges against pro-life journalists who exposed Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of tissue from aborted babies.

There are lots of other reasons to oppose this nomination, but his record on life and religious liberty should alone disqualify him from running the agency dedicated to health and human services. They demonstrate a distorted view of “health” and a dangerous view of “human services.”

The Future Will Be a Battle

To appoint a person like this to head HHS is beyond appalling. That agency has jurisdiction over a vast amount of activities that involve the lives of unborn children and the religious liberty of those who oppose killing them. It can also promote dangerous and false gender ideology. One can only imagine the kind of subordinate officials that he will appoint to his agency, and the policies they will promote.

We already knew that we were facing a hostile new administration, and that we would be fighting for our causes on many fronts. Joe Biden’s nomination of Xavier Becerra makes clear beyond any doubt that a Biden-Harris administration will be the steadfast enemy of the causes of human life and religious liberty.


Edward Mechmann is director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York. Before coming to the archdiocese, he worked as a state and federal prosecutor. He’s written an introduction to Catholic social teaching called God, Society and the Human Person. The Human Life Review gave him its “great defender of life” award in 2018. His first article for The Stream was When a Liberal Plays God. This article is a version of one that appeared on blog Stepping Out of the Boat and is used with permission.

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