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WASHINGTON — Xavier Becerra has survived the worst of a tense confirmation battle to become HHS secretary, but in the days ahead he will face a much more intimidating challenge: governing during a pandemic.

The Biden administration couldn’t slow down its Covid-19 response efforts to wait for Becerra’s confirmation, so his responsibilities have so far been farmed out to the White House and officials who didn’t need Senate approval. Once he’s confirmed, which is expected this week, Becerra will have to carve out his role in the Covid-19 response while juggling the demands of other crises and staffing a massive department.


“New appointees are still trying to figure out how to turn on the lights, and they have a lot on their plates,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “There are going to be a lot of late nights.”

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