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Hearing Recap: Secretary Becerra Edition

Today, the Committee on Education and the Workforce conducted an oversight hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or Department). Members held Secretary Xavier Becerra to account as he testified on behalf of the Fiscal Year 2025 budget request and his radical HHS policies. 
Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) opened the hearing on offense with her opening statement. She criticized the budget for both its fiscal unsustainability and misguided priorities, including a failure to address fentanyl abuse, child trafficking, and abortion on-demand.

"In an ideal world, the HHS budget would represent a positive vision for a healthier country,” said Chairwoman Foxx, continuing, “Yours is a tax-and-spend monstrosity that papers over the numerous social pathologies inflicting our nation."

As the hearing was the second with Secretary Becerra this Congress, many members revisited ongoing concerns with HHS when it became their turn for questions.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) reopened the dialogue regarding unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border and HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Since the previous hearing, the Office of Inspector General released a damning report on ORR’s failure to vet sponsors for these minors properly.

“One of the findings from the report stated that the case files of 16 percent of unaccompanied children who were released to sponsors did not contain any documentation that a required safety check on the sponsor was conducted,” stated Rep. Walberg.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) joined in admonishing the administration for letting unaccompanied children pour across the southern border with no family in sight. “Last year alone it was 137,000 and if you compare that to the last year of President Trump’s term, on his watch in the last year of his term it was 25,000,” said Rep. Banks, further highlighting the impact Biden’s open border policies are having on children.

Members also shared concerns about the Department’s new nondiscrimination rule under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Department’s website, the rule “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics).”

The expanded definition of sex to include gender identity led to a flurry of Republican backlash, citing the rule’s conflict with principles of religious freedom.

“Your rule says that if a woman’s health insurance plan isn’t giving her the unfettered right to end her child’s life, then she can claim she’s been discriminated against,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-VA). He questioned, “Do you believe that someone who opposes abortion should be accused of discriminating against a woman because they choose not to end the life of a child?”

“If a person is being denied the health care that they need, then that requires action to be taken,” responded Secretary Becerra, hardly a confirmation that doctors’ religious convictions will be observed.

Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) addressed another angle of the rule—that it would facilitate more sex changes for minors. She stated, “This rule certainly would violate the religious conscience of thousands of doctors and medical providers.”

When Secretary Becerra claimed that religious objectors would not be “forced to provide any particular service,” Rep. Miller shot back, “I actually don’t believe you. Your Department has a history of violating the closely held religious beliefs of people.”

In an attempt to bolster Secretary Becerra’s rule, Democrat Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) claimed, “We know that gender-affirming care is medically necessary care that has been endorsed by every major medical association.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The science is at best unsettled according to The Cass Review, a comprehensive report commissioned by the National Health Service in England.

Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) also questioned the judgment of the medical establishment by prodding at the uneven COVID-19 vaccine guidance issued by the Department. “What’s the best practice for a university? Should they have vaccine mandates now, yes or no?” asked Rep. Kiley, referring to 30 American universities with ongoing vaccine mandates. 
Secretary Becerra responded, “Everyone can manage it as they see fit,” adding, “I’m not going to speak for thousands of universities.” Rep. Kiley couldn’t help but point out the incongruity in this new apparent posture and the previous conduct of the Department.

In closing, Rep. Aaron Bean (R-FL) punctuated the catastrophe brewing at HHS with one single question about Medicaid and Medicare fraud.

“The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association … they say it’s $100 billion. Does 100 billion sound about right?”

“You know, I’ve heard many numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” replied Secretary Becerra.

In other words, the money that American taxpayers are defrauded of each year is more than some developed countries spend in total to achieve coverage for every citizen. The inefficiency at HHS is beyond comprehension, so much so that Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) makes a point each hearing with Secretary Becerra to ask, “Where are all the dollars going?”

No one seems to be able to answer, but one thing is for certain. The American people want their money back.

Bottom line: The Committee is fighting for every taxpayer dollar spent on HHS’s radical agenda. 
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