Rep. Xavier Becerra, a longtime Democratic congressman from Los Angeles, coasted through his final confirmation hearing Monday on his way to becoming California’s attorney general, a high-profile post in which he is expected to lead the state’s resistance to President Donald Trump.
“I will make sure no headwinds from outside our state can knock us down,” Becerra said in a statement following his confirmation in the California Senate on Monday.
In a 26-9 vote, Democrats in the state Senate voiced strong support for Becerra, and called on him to take on the federal government in court should proposals by Trump or his administration hamstring key state initiatives that seek to combat climate change, protect the rights of undocumented immigrants and expand access to health care for millions of Californians.
He is expected to be sworn in Tuesday by Brown at the annual State of the State address in Sacramento.
In urging his colleagues to approve Becerra’s confirmation, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, referred to Becerra as a friend, touted his experience in Washington and said he “is an excellent embodiment of the American dream.”
“There is no question he is qualified, capable and ready to take on this challenge on behalf of the people of California,” de León said. “He will be a strong partner for our state to help us work with the federal government when we can, and to resist when we must.”
Becerra, Gov. Jerry Brown’s pick to replace newly elected U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as the state’s top cop, has faced little opposition. Republican lawmakers who voted against his confirmation, however, denounced his appointment and called on Democrats to soften their antagonism toward Trump.
Trump has threatened to penalize states that declare themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, for example, by withholding federal funding.
“I’m a little concerned, colleagues, about the tone,” said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. “I don’t want to jeopardize those funds. So, I believe that instead of making it sound like we’re being defiant, I’d prefer that we are looking at offering an olive branch and that we’re at the table, that we’re working together.”
Becerra, 58, who is stepping down from Congress after being re-elected in November to his 13th consecutive term, is the state’s first Latino attorney general, the son of Mexican immigrants and a former California deputy attorney general. His approval comes a week after a lengthy and sometimes heated Senate Rules Committee hearing at which he faced fiery questioning about concerns among some in the Legislature that he would seek alternate elected office or serve in the position temporarily.
“I’m not looking to be a caretaker of this position,” Becerra told de León last week. “This decision is not an easy one because it impacts more than just me. It is my full intent to serve in this position ... far more than two years.”
He takes over the same month the state Legislature hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his Washington, D.C.-based firm Covington & Burling, to assist with legal challenges posed by policy conflicts with the Trump administration.