Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins voted with Democrats Wednesday to advance California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
The 50-49 vote sets Becerra up for a final confirmation vote in the coming days. Most Republicans, however, vocally objected to his nomination, citing his stance on abortion and the reopening of schools.
During his confirmation hearings, Republicans pressed Becerra on his record of supporting pro-choice policies, including voting against a ban on partial-birth abortions and supporting taxpayer-funded abortions.
Becerra largely deflected, though he said he was hopeful that he and Republicans could work together if confirmed and pledged to follow the law on abortion-related issues.
“I think we can find some common ground,” he told Utah Sen. Mitt Romney when asked about his positions.
When pressed further on abortion-related issues by Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun, he replied, “I can say to you that we will follow the law when it comes to the use of federal resources.”
Becerra also refused to say whether schools should reopen as soon as possible when asked by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, instead saying that it was a “local issue.”
“No one wants to risk the life of their child, and no one wants to have a child be the reason an adult becomes ill from COVID,” Becerra said. “I believe … the best approach … is to let science guide us and to let the experts determine when it is safe, remembering that schools and education are a local issue.”
“We should not be the ones making the final decision on how and when a school will reopen,” he added.
Multiple studies have shown that schools can reopen safely as long as they have the necessary resources to do so, and that children are much less likely to spread the virus than adults. The Biden administration has faced growing pressure to open schools nationwide, though some teachers unions have pushed back against opening for in-person learning.