Mitchell’s Line on Radical HHS Nominee: ‘Since When is Being a Doctor the Requirement?’

Andrea Mitchell was distraught like your everyday Democrat on her Wednesday MSNBC show over the fact that Republicans are not thrilled with President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. She was also dismayed that thus far no Republicans have stepped forward to cancel Sen. Joe Manchin’s decision to vote no on OMB director-nominee Neera Tanden.

Mitchell wanted to know how any Republican could oppose Becerra. “Xavier Becerra for instance is not a doctor, but the Republicans supported Alex Azar and you know, Kathleen Sebelius was HHS secretary, Donna Shalala. They were not doctors. Since when has being a doctor the requirement to be HHS secretary? You’re running one of the biggest agencies other than the Pentagon.”

Maybe because none of those nominees entered office during a pandemic? Interestingly enough, Mitchell had no problems attacking Donald Trump’s first HHS secretary, Tom Price who is a medical doctor, calling him “controversial” for being “a fierce critic of Obamacare.”

Lanhee Chen, who was Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign policy director, interjected to correct slightly Mitchell’s description of Republican opposition, “I don’t think being a doctor is necessarily the criticism or not being a doctor is the criticism. I think the question is health policy experience, that’s the issue with Becerra. More broadly just being a doctor, I don’t think that’s the right critique to apply to this at all.”

Mitchell then dishonestly claimed, “That’s the criticism Republicans were laying on him, though.” They were underlining he had no health-care experience.

The real reason why Republicans have lined up to oppose him is not his lack of a medical degree, but his obsession with persecuting nuns and pro-lifers to the extent where even the Los Angeles Times got uncomfortable. 

Mitchell then moved to Tanden’s confirmation struggles, somberly lamenting to former Obama campaign director Jim Messina:

Some talk about Kyrsten Sinema possibly not being in line, she’s still deciding, and trying to find another Republican, we don’t know where that would come from. Collins and Romney already said they’re against her. I don’t know where Lisa Murkowski is on this, I guess she hasn’t declared, yet, but is it waiting to see if they can pick off one Republican to replace Joe Manchin or let her withdraw and find another place for her that’s not a confirmable post?  

Messina, for his part, closed out this portion of the segment by predictably calling Republican opposition to Becerra, Tanden, and Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland racist, “I do think it’s interesting, the three people the Republicans have chosen to fight over, Tanden, Becerra, and Haaland, are three minority candidates for a Republican Party that has serious minority problems, taking these three fights is an interesting issue and decision to a party that’s now out of power and needs some minority votes to get back in power someday.” 

This segment was sponsored by Verizon.

Here is a transcript for the February 24 show:

MSNBC

Andrea Mitchell Reports

12:29 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: Xavier Becerra for instance is not a doctor, but the Republicans supported Alex Azar and you know, Kathleen Sebelius was HHS secretary, Donna Shalala. They were not doctors. Since when has being a doctor the requirement to be HHS secretary? You’re running one of the biggest agencies other than the Pentagon. 

LANHEE CHEN: Yeah. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t — 

MITCHELL: I’m sorry. Jim. 

CHEN: I’ll just say this briefly. I don’t think being a doctor is necessarily the criticism or not being a doctor is the criticism. I think the question is health policy experience, that’s the issue with Becerra. More broadly just being a doctor, I don’t think that’s the right critique to apply to this at all. 

MITCHELL: That’s the criticism Republicans were laying on him, though. Jim Messina, is this a case where the White House is going to try to make sure they have all their Democrats? Some talk about Kyrsten Sinema possibly not being in line, she’s still deciding, and trying to find another Republican, we don’t know where that would come from. Collins and Romney already said they’re against her. I don’t know where Lisa Murkowski is on this, I guess she hasn’t declared, yet, but is it waiting to see if they can pick off one Republican to replace Joe Manchin or let her withdraw and find another place for her that’s not a confirmable post? 

JIM MESSINA: Well, I think that’s why the decision not to have a hearing is the right decision. The White House is going to try to take this back and do exactly what Lanhee was talking just talking about, which is to say “look, who is qualified to do this job?” Whether you lover her or hate her, truly Neera Tanden is the most qualified person I can think of  to be OMB secretary and they’re going try to take it to a broader level and discuss the fact she’s qualified and try to get some of the politics, you know, back and forth. I thought that clip you showed of Senator Cornyn was the most hypocritical thing I’ve soon all day. Here’s a guy saying she was mean to both parties. You just supported Donald Trump, who’s said the most violent and worst things I’ve seen in politics on Twitter every day and you advocated for his elections and now you have a problem with Neera Tanden’s tweets? And I do think it’s interesting, the three people the Republicans have chosen to fight over, Tanden, Bacerra, and Haaland, are three minority candidates for a Republican Party that has serious minority problems, taking these three fights is an interesting issue and decision to a party that’s now out of power and needs some minority votes to get back in power someday. 

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