SACRAMENTO, Calif. >> In their first official action since Donald Trump became president, California lawmakers on Monday confirmed a new attorney general who has vowed to defend the state’s liberal policies against the Trump administration and a Republican Congress.
Xavier Becerra easily cleared the final hurdle to become the state’s top law enforcement official, with a 26-9 vote along party lines in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Becerra, who represented the Los Angeles area in the U.S. House for more than two decades, will be the state’s first Latino attorney general.
Democrats said Becerra will fight to defend California’s protections for the gay and lesbian community, women and immigrants.
“He will be a very strong partner for our state to work with the federal government when we can and to resist when we must,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat.
Some Republicans said they voted against him because of his promise to challenge federal policies. Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa says he’s worried Becerra will jeopardize billions of dollars in federal funding by antagonizing the Trump administration.
Democrats in the Assembly approved Becerra’s confirmation earlier this month. Becerra worked as a deputy attorney general for three years before winning an Assembly seat in 1990.
He will replace Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.
Many of California’s liberal policies face an uncertain future amid promises by Trump and Republican lawmakers to overhaul the nation’s health care, immigration and climate change laws.
“Our state has the law, the grit and the guts to fight for hardworking families,” Becerra told lawmakers at a hearing earlier this month, later adding, “I think the best defense is a good offense.”
The day of Trump’s inauguration, the White House was already at odds with the country’s most populous state over climate change policy. The White House website said Friday that Trump planned to stop former President Barack Obama’s climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
The same day, California regulators plowed ahead with their own climate change goals, releasing a 157-page plan to reach a target of a 40 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has called Becerra “battle-tested” from his time in a polarized Congress and said his experience will serve him well in defending California’s policies.
In addition to confirming Becerra, Legislative leaders have taken their own steps to challenge the new White House administration. The day after Trump was elected president, de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a joint statement rejecting Trump’s campaign message.
“While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values,” they said. “We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”
Earlier this month, they hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to advise them on a legal strategy as they prepare to clash with the Trump administration. Holder’s firm will be paid $25,000 a month plus expenses from the Legislature’s budget to help lawmakers develop strategies “regarding potential actions of the federal government that may be of concern to the state of California,” according to the contract with Holder.