SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – After 12 terms on Capitol Hill, Rep. Xavier Becerra will officially leave Congress for California after being confirmed Monday by the Legislature as the Golden State’s new attorney general.
The Los Angeles Democrat exits office as the highest-ranking Latino congressman and will replace newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris as the Golden State’s chief law enforcement officer. Becerra, 58, will become California’s first Latino attorney general and promised lawmakers during confirmation hearings that he would use the post to challenge the Trump administration on immigration, health care and environmental issues.
The state Senate voted 26-9 to seal Becerra’s nomination, and he will be sworn in by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday. The Stanford alum breezed through the Democratic-controlled Legislature after being tapped by Brown in December, despite nominal Republican support.
“There’s no question he’s qualified, he’s capable and ready to take on the challenge on behalf of the people of California,” said Senate President Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles. “He will be a very strong partner for our state to help us work with the federal government when we can, and to resist when we must.”
Becerra, the son of Mexican immigrants, is the first state attorney general to be appointed since Thomas Lynch in 1964. Brown said Tuesday that Becerra will be a “champion for all Californians.”
During a five-hour confirmation hearing last week, Becerra told a Senate committee that he intends to defend California’s “innovative” and “groundbreaking laws” once confirmed as the state’s top cop. He also said he intends on running for a full term as attorney general in 2018.
Becerra’s confirmation comes as state Democrats are ramping up rhetoric against President Donald Trump. Democrats have accused Trump of compiling a cabinet of “bullies, bigots and billionaires” and view Becerra’s nomination as a direct rebuke of Trump’s purported climate change and immigration policy changes.
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, praised Becerra’s political experience and acumen and called him “imminently capable” of taking on the Trump administration.
“I believe that he will indeed vigorously defend the values of our state by taking the fight to the federal government when necessary,” Jackson testified.
Republicans argued that Becerra’s adversarial approach to the Trump administration and support for sanctuary cities are disqualifiers. They all voted against Becerra or abstained.
“I want someone who will say they will work their hardest for Californians. I don’t want someone who says they are going to fight, because there are 49 other states,” said state Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield.
Becerra was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning an economics degree from Stanford and a law degree from Stanford Law School. He served as the state’s deputy attorney general in the 1980s and was a member of the state Assembly from 1990 to 1992, before being elected to Congress.