Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Wednesday grilled California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden's radical nominee for secretary of health and human services, demanding to know why he sued the federal government to "bully" nuns.
Acting on behalf of the state of California, Becerra in 2017 sued the federal government to reinstate an Obamacare mandate requiring insurance providers to make contraceptives available. The mandate was previously challenged by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a nonprofit organization run by Catholic nuns that serves the elderly poor, which argued that providing contraceptives violated the group's religious beliefs. President Donald Trump in 2017 signed an executive order providing regulatory relief for the Catholic nuns, which instigated the lawsuit from Becerra.
During Becerra's confirmation hearing for HHS in the U.S. Senate, Sasse accused him of "bullying" the nuns.
"Mr. Becerra, you said a while ago that you had never sued the nuns — which is a pretty interesting way of reframing your bullying. You had actually sued the Government, who had given an exemption to the nuns. Can you explain to us what the Little Sisters of the Poor were doing wrong?" Sasse asked.
"So, Senator, as I tried to explain, my actions were against the federal government," Becerra deflected. "The Little Sisters of the Poor, we never alleged that the Little Sisters of the Poor did anything. Our problem was that the federal government was not abiding by the law as we saw it, and what we did is we took action against the federal government so California could administer its program to make sure that the Affordable Care Act continued."
Sasse said Becerra had given a "nonsense" answer, demanding to know what the nuns were doing that made it difficult for California to administer the Affordable Care Act.
Becerra again denied that his lawsuit was in any way related to the nuns, insisting that he had taken action against the federal government, but Sasse wasn't having it.
"What did the federal government do? It was about the nuns. It's nonsense, like what you're saying isn't true," the senator said. "You say you didn't sue the nuns. 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?"
"The federal government took actions to change the way we would have administrated the programs that we had under the Affordable Care Act. Our actions related to how providers are providing services to the people of California. When the federal government took action that we thought was unlawful, we took action to protect the people of California," Becerra responded.