The U.S. Senate this week narrowly approved Xavier Becerra as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as news reports highlighted the ongoing mess he left as California’s attorney general. The imagery was perfect — like an action movie protagonist barely escaping from a building that he detonated behind him.
The latest state Department of Justice fracas involves gun registration, but there’s a common thread among all of Becerra’s scandals. As California’s “top cop,” he often acted with a disturbing degree of lawlessness as he, say, refused to comply with a new law requiring the disclosure of police-disciplinary records and threatened legal action against news reporters.
This week’s developments add a new wrinkle to that recurring theme: basic incompetence. Becerra’s office “quietly signed a settlement agreement in federal court admitting his agency’s gun-registration website was so poorly designed that potentially thousands of Californians were unable to register their assault weapons and comply with state law,” reported the Sacramento Bee.
In 2016, the state passed a law requiring such registrations, but it took a federal lawsuit from gun-rights’ groups to halt that Catch-22 situation. Actually, the Department of Justice’s behavior veered into rights’- violation territory — as it had the power to prosecute California gun owners for noncompliance with a law that the office made impossible to follow.
Earlier this month, gun-violence researchers criticized the Department of Justice for — drum roll, please — refusing once again to comply with another law Becerra apparently didn’t like. The Legislature had mandated that the DOJ provide related gun data to the UC Davis California Firearm Violence Center, but the department wants to withhold important information, per a Bee report.
These revelations are a fitting summation of Becerra’s years as attorney general. He’s disregarded laws he doesn’t like. He bungled basic data-collection efforts and resisted open-government measures, as Democrats protected him. Count us among those critics who worry about how Becerra’s HHS will handle Americans’ healthcare data.
Let’s hope he receives more stringent oversight at the federal level. The nation can’t afford a collapsing HHS bureaucracy during a pandemic.
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