Formally nominated by the governor on Tuesday to become state attorney general, Rep. Xavier Becerra will face a Jan. 10 confirmation hearing before assuming a key role in California's expected battle against the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. And in a glimpse of the road ahead, the Los Angeles Democrat has been asked by lawmakers how he will counter Trump's positions on issues including immigration and the environment.
The congressman is expected to be confirmed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature — which has 90 days to do so — but some lawmakers want Becerra to stake out positions early to put Trump on notice that some of his proposals will face a fight from California's next lead attorney and top law enforcement official.
"Donald Trump has made multiple statements that directly contradict California law and policy," wrote Democratic Assemblymen Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles and Mark Stone of Scotts Valley in a letter to Becerra. Jones-Sawyer and Stone are the co-chairs of the Assembly Special Committee on the Office of the Attorney General, which will consider the confirmation.
The pair asked Becerra to submit written comments on five "critical issues confronting California today and over the next two years" remaining in the attorney general's term.
Becerra, 58, was asked to respond with his positions on immigration, including cooperation with federal immigration authorities and his view of sanctuary cities, civil rights, environmental protection, police accountability and consumer protection.
"In the next four years, Californians and our laws will encounter substantial challenges from the next President and his administration," the two lawmakers' letter said. "Our next Attorney General will have great responsibility for protecting Californians and our values, and defending our laws."
Becerra has said he is prepared to protect California's progressive policies on immigration, the Affordable Care Act, energy and criminal justice against any change in federal policy under Trump.
"If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us," Becerra said last month.
Trump campaigned on a pledge to crack down on illegal immigration and has threatened to withhold federal funds from cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that declare themselves "sanctuary cities" for those in the country illegally.
The committee leaders asked Becerra to outline what he would do on the issues of religious and press freedoms, including Trump's proposal for a registry for Muslim immigrants.
The panel is also asking Becerra to outline his positions on California's climate change policies, which could be undermined by Trump.
During the campaign, Trump often questioned how much man-made pollution affects climate change, threatened to cancel international agreements to address the problem and said he would reduce environmental protection regulations that hurt U.S. businesses.
Becerra was formally nominated Tuesday to become state attorney general by Gov. Jerry Brown on the same day that Kamala Harris resigned from the position to take office as a U.S. senator following her election victory.
Becerra has served in Congress since 1992 and was most recently the first Latino member of the Committee on Ways and Means, as well as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He previously served in the state Assembly from 1990 to 1992.
"Xavier has been an outstanding public servant — in the state Legislature, the U.S. Congress and as a deputy attorney general," Brown said when he announced last month that Becerra would be his nominee. "I'm confident he will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change."
Harris named Kathleen "Kate" Alice Kenealy chief deputy attorney general to lead the state Department of Justice as acting attorney general until Becerra is confirmed.