Rep. Xavier Becerra endorses Hillary Clinton: 'No leader comes better tested'

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) is endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, citing her commitment to passing immigration reform.

Becerra, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, becomes the highest-ranking Latino lawmaker to state a preference in the 2016 race.

"No leader comes better tested in the halls of Congress and in the foreign capitals of today's international hot spots," Becerra said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. "As president, Hillary Clinton would make sure that our kids can go to college without facing a lifetime of debt, that every American is rewarded for working hard and growing our economy, and that we fix our broken immigration system."

The 12-term Democrat announced his endorsement as the former secretary of state is set to meet with home-care providers at Los Angeles Trade Technical College on Thursday afternoon. The event comes in the midst of three days of California fundraising events in Atherton, San Francisco, Los Angeles and La Jolla.

Becerra endorsed then-Sen. Christopher Dodd in the 2008 Democratic primary. When the Connecticut senator dropped out of the race after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, Becerra threw his support behind Barack Obama.

Becerra announced last week that he would run for reelection rather than seek the U.S. Senate seat being given up by Barbara Boxer. Term-limited in his current position as the fourth-ranking House Democrat, Becerra has said he probably would seek a higher leadership position should either of the three Democrats above him step down.

Clinton has already earned the support of dozens of House Democrats but only one from a party member higher in the leadership ranks: Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has not formally endorsed her, but she has spoken favorably of her candidacy in public and introduced Clinton at a recent meeting of the Democratic caucus as the next president of the United States.

In July, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) became the first member of Congress to endorse former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley in the Democratic race, and campaigned with him in Iowa.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

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