US Senate confirms Burns as CIA head and Becerra in Health

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The US Senate on Thursday confirmed two new members of Joe Biden’s administration: William Burns at the head of the CIA and Xavier Becerra, the first Hispanic to become Minister of Health in the United States.

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Rare moment in a deeply divided Congress, William Burns was invested by a unanimous vote of the senators.

A diplomat for 33 years, this ex-ambassador in Moscow has an atypical profile for this post: he is neither military, nor political, nor from Intelligence.

The new head of US intelligence, Avril Haines, nonetheless warmly welcomed the confirmation of an “extraordinary public servant, who has devoted much of his life to serving the government.”

During his confirmation hearing in the Senate in January, the ex-diplomat assured that he had in-depth knowledge of the CIA, which he has regularly worked with in his career.

Craftsman of the dialogue with Tehran which led to the international nuclear agreement in 2015, he considered that the United States should “do everything to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon”.

He retired in 2014 before taking the helm of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, a think tank on international relations, whose exchange program with a Chinese organization seen as a propaganda body has been criticized by some senators.

During his hearing, he said that the “predatory” attitude of the Chinese government represented the “greatest geopolitical challenge” for the United States.

In a much closer vote, with 50 votes for and 49 against, the senators also confirmed Thursday the appointment of Xavier Becerra as Minister of Health of Joe Biden, the first Hispanic to occupy this key position in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 530,000 lives in the United States.

Elected for more than two decades to the House of Representatives then Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra “has spent his career fighting to expand access to the health system,” said Joe Biden when announcing his appointment in December.

Republicans denounce his lack of medical experience, and consider him too progressive.

Joe Biden has appointed several Hispanic officials in his administration: Xavier Becerra, whose mother is of Mexican descent; Alejandro Mayorkas, born in Cuba and the first Hispanic to head the Ministry of Homeland Security; and Miguel Cardona, of Puerto Rican origin, at the head of the Ministry of Education.