A new book details how former White House adviser Susan Rice was steamed at Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra for pushing back on an immigration assignment from President Biden.
In journalist Franklin Foer’s new book “The Last Politician,” the Atlantic writer revealed that Becerra attempted to avoid his first assignment when arriving to his post in 2021 — a task that involved HHS taking in additional unaccompanied migrant children from Border Patrol.
Becerra took a phone call with over two dozen White House officials that included then-White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, who called on Becerra to expand the number of migrant children in HHS custody.
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The HHS secretary argued that his department required one caregiver per eight children and that the White House’s request would skew the ratio, making the department unable to care for the kids.
Rice pushed back on Becerra, saying that moving more children into HHS custody may not be an ideal situation, but the facilities were better for the children.
Becerra fired back, asking for the request from Biden in writing.
“I’ll do it if I get a request from the president in writing,” Becerra said.
The comment reportedly irritated Rice, who responded that Becerra “won’t get a request in writing.”
“That’s not how the President of the United States operates,” Rice said. “He’s given you an order.”
“I wasn’t there for it,” Becerra retorted.
“The rest of us were. You need to deliver,” Rice responded.
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Later that week, while preparing for a meeting with the HHS secretary and other involved advisors, Biden caught wind about the call and was furious.
“Who am I going to fire in this meeting?” the president asked.
Foer wrote that the president felt he needed to make it unmistakably clear to Becerra that he was to take the migrant children into HHS custody.
“I will do what’s requested of me,” Becerra responded to Biden in the meeting, begrudgingly.
“It’s good of you to do your job,” Vice President Kamala Harris told Becerra.
Biden “lashed out” at Becerra in a March 30, 2021 Oval Office meeting when Becerra allegedly failed to have answers for questions about the agency’s ability to take care of migrant kids, according to The New York Times.
The border has been a sore spot for the Biden administration since taking the White House reins in 2021.
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Politico reported in 2021 that the White House “bristled” at Becerra’s approach as they pushed HHS to speed up the intake of the tens of thousands of migrant children. Separately, sources told the outlet that he was seen as indecisive and too slow to seize the situation
Becerra, meanwhile, reportedly was frustrated by the White House’s moves to drop immigration restrictions and policies before he was confirmed, the outlet said.
Fox News Digital’s Adam Shaw contributed reporting.