Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse criticized Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra’s Wednesday representation of a lawsuit against the Catholic religious order Little Sisters of the Poor.
“You claimed that you never sued the nuns, which is a pretty interesting way of reframing your bullying. You actually sued the federal government, who had given an exemption to the nuns,” Sasse said of the lawsuit California v. Little Sisters of the Poor, which is currently awaiting argument at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Becerra filed the lawsuit in his professional capacity as the California Attorney General. (RELATED: Biden HHS Nominee Becerra: ‘I Have Never Sued Any Nuns’)
“We never alleged that the Little Sisters of the Poor did anything wrong. Our problem was that the federal government was not abiding by the law as we saw it, and we took action against the federal government so California could administer its programs to make sure that the Affordable Care Act could continue to work,” Becerra responded.
“What were the nuns doing that made it impossible for California to administer its program? That was a complete nonsense answer. What did the nuns do?” Sasse pressed.
“You sued the federal government that was keeping you from making sure that the nuns had to buy contraceptive insurance. Were the nuns going to get pregnant?” he continued.
California filed the Little Sisters of the Poor lawsuit after the Trump Administration rescinded an Obama Administration rule that required religious employers and organizations to file paperwork in order to avoid the contraception coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act.
“Donald Trump wants businesses and corporations to control family planning decisions rather than a woman in consultation with her doctor,” Becerra claimed when he filed the lawsuit. “Will they allow businesses to deny you cancer treatment?”
Congressional Republicans have widely panned President Joe Biden’s nomination of Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop submitted to the White House a letter signed by 75 Republican lawmakers calling on Biden to drop the Becerra nomination over Becerra’s endorsement of taxpayer-funded abortion.
“We are not going to reach a common ground,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney told Becerra, after Becerra refused to condemn partial-birth abortion. Republicans will have to convince at least one Senate Democrat to oppose Becerra’s nomination, with the Senate split 50-50.