Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska put California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on the hot seat. Becerra, who is President Joe Biden’s nominee for HHS secretary, was asked by Sasse as to why the former sued the federal government and “bully” nuns.
On behalf of the state he serves, Becerra sued the federal government in 2017, demanding the reinstitution of an Obamacare policy that requires insurance providers to make birth control available.
A non-profit run by Catholic nuns, the Little Sister of the Poor, previously challenged this mandate. The group argued that the said policy went against its religious beliefs. In the same year, former President Donald Trump approved an executive order that provides regulatory relief for the religious non-profit. This is where Becerra’s lawsuit took root.
Sasse Grills Becerra During Confirmation Hearing
At Becerra’s confirmation hearing in the Senate, Sasse said he was “bullying the nuns.”
The senator said that while the attorney general claimed he “never sued the nuns,” he still sued the federal government, which bestowed the exemptions to the nuns. With this, Sasse asked Becerra what the Little Sisters of the Poor did wrong.
To this, Becerra claimed that his actions were aimed against the federal government. He added that they never claimed that the nuns did anything wrong. The California attorney general added that he and the state had a problem with the federal government not following the law “as we saw it” and that they only took action against the government so that the state can continue to enact its program related to the Affordable Care Act.
The senator, however, claimed that Becerra gave a “nonsense” answer and asked once again what the nuns did wrong. To this, Becerra held his ground. He stated that the lawsuit was not related to the nuns at all, but Sasse didn’t think this was enough.
Sasse then reframed his questions to grill the attorney general even further. He asked what the federal government did. Sasse then accused Becerra that while he didn’t directly sue the nuns, he sued the government that allowed nuns to opt-out of buying contraceptive insurance that California was pushing for. Sasse then asked if the nuns are “going to get pregnant?”
To this, Becerra responded by explaining how the federal government acted in a way that would change how California would have pushed through with its Affordable Care Act-related programs. He added that when the government acted in what they saw as an unlawful manner, they also acted “to protect the people of California.”