February 24, 2021
Becerra hides from his record of targeting the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Partial transcript is available below:
Sen. Sasse: Thank you, Chairman. Mr. Becerra, you said a while ago that you had never sued the nuns - which is a pretty interesting way of reframing your bullying. You had actually sued the Government, who had given an exemption to the nuns. Can you explain to us what the Little Sisters of the Poor were doing wrong?
Hon. Becerra: So, Senator, as I tried to explain, my actions were against the federal government. The Little Sisters of The Poor, we never alleged that the Little Sisters of the Poor did anything. Our problem was that the federal government was not abiding by the law as we saw it, and what we did is we took action against the federal government so California could administer its program to make sure that the Affordable Care Act continued.
Sen. Sasse: What were the nuns doing that made it impossible to administer the program? That was a complete nonsense answer. What were the nuns doing that made it difficult for California to administer your program?
Hon. Becerra: As I said Senator, our action was against the Federal Government.
Sen. Sasse: No, you continued and said, "So that California could administer your program." What did the nuns do that made it difficult for California to administer their program?
Hon. Becerra: And Senator what I'm trying to explain to you is we were not looking at the actions of the Little Sisters or any other program. Our actions were against the federal government and the way they were applying the laws that existed to California.
Sen. Sasse: What did the federal government do? It was about the nuns. It's nonsense, like what you're saying isn't true. You say you didn't sue the nuns. You sued the federal government that was keeping you from making sure that the nuns had to buy contraceptive insurance. Were the nuns going to get pregnant?
Hon. Becerra: Senator, the actions of the state of California - and I was defending the actions of our state and the laws that were in place - the federal government took actions to change the way we would have administrated the programs that we had under the Affordable Care Act. Our actions related to how providers are providing services to the people of California. When the federal government took action that we thought was unlawful, we took action to protect the people of California.
Sen. Sasse: So again, a whole bunch of words. But you know well, you're an incredibly smart man, you know well that what the federal government did was make sure that you couldn't target the nuns. So, you sued the federal government because the federal government said the nuns didn't have to buy contraceptive insurance. You can put 17 layers of "You were following the law to go after the federal government for administering the program or doing X or doing Y that made it difficult for you to, for California, to administer the program." But it was just about nuns buying contraceptive coverage. Was there something else the federal government did that you were suing them for when, in the case called "California vs. Little Sister of the Poor?"
Hon. Becerra: Senator, the case was not, again, that was not the name of the case. And what I will tell you is that our actions were based on trying to follow the law. When the federal government took action, which we believe did not comport with the law, at that point we took action. Our action was based on the law and so, as I've said, we may disagree on how we see this, and I respect the differences that we may have, but my action was to follow the law.
Sen. Sasse: What about the law - as the federal government's conscience exemptions applied in the case where you sued the federal government - what about the law applied to anybody except the nuns and other similarly situated religious institutions? You were targeting religious liberty.
Hon. Becerra: Sir, let me see if I can try to answer. The Affordable Care Act tries to make sure that we are providing healthcare to all Americans. We have to make sure that we provide the services that Americans are entitled to receive. We tried to make sure that, in California under the Affordable Care Act, every Californian receives the benefits they are entitled to under that Act. And so, when we saw the federal government was taking actions which might abridge those rights...
Sen. Sasse: ...And so I'm going to ask the question again. You said, "The federal government taking actions," this is the third time you haven't answered, were any of those actions about anything except nuns and religious liberty? Was the federal government taking other actions that you were suing about in that case? Or was it just because you wanted to target the nuns and religious liberty.
Hon. Becerra: Senator, again I respect the way you view it...
Sen. Sasse: ...because it's actually what happened.
Hon. Becerra: Well Senator, I understand that we may view it differently, but I was trying to protect access to care for all...
Sen. Sasse: ...I'm giving you the chance to explain what you think it was about if it wasn't this, and you've not yet explained any party except "the law is administered by the federal government." But it was about the nuns.
Hon. Becerra: Senator, I'll try once again to explain. Californians are entitled under the Affordable Care Act to access care...
Sen. Sasse: And the nuns were keeping them from getting care how?
Hon. Becerra: The federal government was changing the...
Sen. Sasse: to make sure that the religious liberty rights of the nuns were protected. Was there anything else the federal government was doing except making sure the nuns had religious liberty?
Hon. Becerra: Senator, I respect the difference....
Sen. Sasse: For the fifth time you have not answered the question. I have asked you for any party besides the nuns and you've just said you respect diversity of opinions...