"Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.”
“Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are."
This is one of potential VP pick Xavier Becerra’s favorite explanations about why he supports Hillary, because she’s been involved in helping the Latino community and immigrant communities for years, but it turns out there’s someone else he walks with, Bernie Sanders, as shown in this clip from 1995:
Becerra’s remarks start around the 12:00 minute mark and then at the 19:30 minute mark, as well. Sanders was elected to Congress in 1990, just two years before Becerra despite their age difference, and they’ve shared many of the same policy goals ever since, although taking different approaches.
Becerra has been a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus since at least 2001, probably even earlier since he’s been working together on legislation with Bernie since 1995, as shown above. There were probably no caucus internet web pages back then. There were not a lot of web pages.
Congressman Xavier Becerra graduated from Stanford Law School in 1984 at 26:
The first in his family to attend college, Xavier graduated from Stanford University in 1980, soon after returning to his alma mater to attend law school, completing his juris doctorate in 1984.
Following law school, Xavier worked for a legal services agency representing the mentally ill. He then served as a Deputy Attorney General in California. In 1990, he was elected to the California State Assembly.
His first job in politics in 1986 was fighting mass incarceration in East LA:
Becerra’s first political job was with a Los Angeles legislator, Art Torres. He got to know the district by helping residents fight plans to build a prison in East Los Angeles. He won a Los Angeles Assembly seat in 1990 with Torres’ help.
“When they say all politicians are crooks, it hurts me,” his mother said. “I don’t like the criticism. Maybe it’s because I’m his mother, but you can trust him. Xavier was always a good boy.”
Becerra still has a good relationship with his mentor Torres, which seems to be a common theme:
Mr. Torres said Mr. Becerra would have a lot to offer the Democratic ticket, as a son of Mexican-American immigrants who went on to get economics and law degrees at Stanford, and whose reputation is unblemished. Mr. Becerra and his wife, Carolina Reyes, an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, have three daughters.
“Totally an Eagle Scout — I think he still drinks milk with his lunch,” Mr. Torres said of Mr. Becerra. “Having served on some of these vice-presidential selection committees in the past, I can tell you: No. 1, first of all, is loyalty and trust. That has to be the top priority. He fits the bill. And he’s articulate in both Spanish and English.”
After winning his election to Congress in 1992, the same year Clinton was elected President, he often voted against Bill Clinton, even if Bill did bring him and his parents to the White House for a photo:
“He called Xavier ‘the little rascal,’” Maria said, chuckling at the memory.
Right from the start, he tried to make sure that the interests of immigrants were being considered:
That year, he successfully persuaded the legendarily irascible Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., to secure a better deal for disabled immigrants in a short-term unemployment insurance extension.
Emboldened, Becerra went on to stand up at a caucus meeting to thank the elder statesman for being amenable to the change — then launched into a lecture on Congress’s general neglect of the immigrant community.
Rostenkowski, flustered and embarrassed, reneged on the agreement, and had he not been ousted from the House amid corruption charges a year later, Becerra may never have made it onto the Ways and Means Committee, at the time his highest stated aspiration.
“I didn’t know who I was taking on!” Becerra recalled with a laugh.
He voted for the Family and Medical Leave Bill in 1993, against Welfare Reform in 1995 and 1996, for the 1994 Crime Bill, like Bernie, against the Gun Ban Repeal Act of 1995 and 1997 Juvenile Crime Bill. He remains an advocate for reimposing the assault weapons bans and reducing gun violence overall.
Here is a partial transcript of that 1995 video, where Sanders and Becerra discussed Welfare Reform.
Notice how he keeps renaming it the “Contract on America” not the “Contract with America”. Classic.
BERNIE SANDERS: WE HAVE SOMEBODY FROM THE MIDWEST, SOMEBODY FROM THE SOUTH, MR. BECERRA IS FROM CALIFORNIA, AND I'M FROM VERMONT. IT SHOULD BE A GOOD DISCUSSION. MR. FIELDS, WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN?
MR. FIELDS: I THANK THE GENTLEMAN FOR YIELDING. I WANT TO ECHO THE SENTIMENT THE NEED TO CREATE JOBS AND IMPROVE THE MINIMUM WAGE….
MR. SANDERS: MR. BECERRA, DID YOU WANT TO JOIN THE DISCUSSION?
MR. BECERRA: I THANK YOU FOR SCHEDULING THIS SPECIAL ORDER AND FOR GIVING ALL OF US AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS FURTHER SOME OF THE ASPECTS OF THIS WHOLE DEBATE WE ARE GOING THROUGH ON THE CONTRACT ON AMERICA.
COLLEAGUES -- GLAD I COULD JOIN MY COLLEAGUES, MS. KAPTUR AND MR. FIELDS ON THIS INTERESTING DEBATE. WE ARE NOW AT A POINT WHERE WE ARE DISCUSSING SO-CALLED WELFARE REFORM. WHAT WE FIND IN THE BILL BEFORE US, H.R. 4, ON THE FLOOR, IT'S A VERSION, OF WHAT WAS IN THE CONTRACT WITH AMERICA. WHAT WE FIND IS THE REPUBLICANS CLAIM THEY WILL SAVE ABOUT $66 WL THROUGH THIS WELFARE REFORM PACKAGE. YET THEY WILL NOT CUT SCHOOL LUNCHES OR CUT DAY CARE. SOMEHOW THEY WILL SAVE WITHOUT MAKING CUTS, BUT WE KNOW IN FACT THEY WILL CUT. BUT PERHAPS THE MOST EGREGIOUS ASPECT OF THESE CUTS IS NOT JUST THAT THEY GO AFTER KIDS, NOT JUST THAT SOME OF THE CUTS THEY ARE MAKING GO AFTER ELDERLY, THE DISABLED, BUT THE USE OF THESE CUTS. WE HAD YESTERDAY DEBATED ON THE FLOOR OF THIS HOUSE A PARTICULAR AMENDMENT THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TECHNICAL. IT WAS A CHANGE THAT WAS MADE, AND I WANT TO -- I KNOW THE CAMERAS CAN'T PICK THIS UP FOR OUR COLLEAGUES TO SEE, BUT I WANT TO READ WHAT THAT AMENDMENT SAID. AND THIS IS -- THIS IS WHAT WE HAD A SPOT. IT SAID PAGE 393, STRIKE LINE 4, AND ALL THAT FOLLOWS THROUGH LINE 7. PAGE 393, STRIKE LINE 5, STRIKE TECHNICAL, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, TECHNICAL AMENDMENT. THAT LINE -- WHAT THAT LINE DID WAS IT CHANGED WHAT THE BILL SAID, WHICH REQUIRED THAT MONEYS THAT WOULD BE CUT AND THEREFORE BE AVAILABLE FOR DEFICIT REDUCTION WOULD NO LONGER BE EARMARKED FOR DEFICIT REDUCTION. BUT INSTEAD COULD BE USED FOR THINGS LIKE FINANCING TAX CUTS. WHICH TAX CUTS? WELL, WE KNOW THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX CUT IS BEING PROPOSED UNDER THE REPUBLICANS' CONTRACT ON AMERICA, AND THEY NEED ABOUT $200 BILLION TO PAY FOR THESE TAX CUTS. SO ALL OF A SUDDEN WE ARE FINDING THAT WELFARE REFORM WHICH IS BEING USED BY THE REPUBLICANS TO SAVE MONEYS BY CUTTING CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS, SCHOOL LUNCH, BY CUTTING THE DISABLED PROGRAMS, BY CUTTING PROGRAMS FOR THE ELDERLY ARE GOING TO BE USED NO LONGER FOR DEFICIT REDUCTION, AS MUCH AS YOU MAY NOT HAVE LIKED ALL THOSE CUTS, BUT NOW THEY ARE AVAILABLE TO BE USED FOR TAX CUTS. AND AS THE GENTLEMAN FROM VERMONT HAS INDICATED, MOST OF THESE TAX CUTS WILL GO TO THE WEALTHIEST AMERICANS EARNING MORE THAN $200,000.
MR. SANDERS: NEXT WEEK I BELIEVE THE TAX BILL WILL BE COMING BEFORE THE HOUSE.
In 1996, Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Becerra was one of only 67 to stand against it. He voted against the Iraq War in 2002 and to repeal discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell rules in 2010.
One area Progressives might be concerned about is trade, because like most of the Democratic Party his views have changed over the years, from 1994 when he voted for NAFTA, a vote he now regrets, through 2005 when he voted against CAFTA, once it was clear these trade agreements were hurting US workers not helping them. The free trade Los Angeles Times editorial board considered him such a protectionist by 2008 that they hoped he would not accept Obama’s appointment as US Trade Rep, which it turns out he did not accept, but for different reasons. He wanted to set trade policy not just implement it. The need to travel was an issue, too, less time to be with his wife and three daughters.
Becerra's a bad choice for trade post
Deep down, we had hoped Barack Obama was fibbing when he bashed the North American Free Trade Agreement on the campaign trail. After all, his senior economic policy advisor had, according to a leaked memo, assured Canadian officials that the talk was "more reflective of political maneuvering than policy." Yet amid reports Thursday that Obama had offered the crucial job of U.S. trade representative to a dyed-in-the-wool protectionist, it seems he was disastrously serious all along.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) could become the administration's point person on international trade. He's a terrible choice, and not just because of a history of unsavory behavior -- such as his successful efforts to win a pardon from President Clinton for convicted cocaine kingpin Carlos Vignali, or the screamingly unethical robo-calls his campaign engineered during his run for Los Angeles mayor in 2001. Becerra is a leader of the Democratic Party's protectionist wing, which opposes NAFTA, the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement and most other trade deals.
Free trade irks many liberals because it can shift American jobs to other countries, but it almost invariably does more good than harm, lowering prices for goods and creating new jobs to make up for those it displaces.
Here is a New York Times article about it:
Trade experts said the appointment of Mr. Becerra would suggest that Mr. Obama intended to make good on his campaign pledges to hold existing and new trade deals to tougher scrutiny.
Mr. Becerra, who entered Congress in 1992 and serves a district in Los Angeles, voted in favor of Nafta but now says he regrets it. In 2005, he helped lead the Democratic opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, emerging as an impassioned voice for the rights of workers. The deal passed the House by two votes.
But Mr. Becerra voted in favor of a trade deal with Peru and to normalize trading relations with China. To some analysts, he symbolizes the evolution of the Democratic Party on trade over the last 15 years — from the free-trade bent of the Clinton years toward a more protectionist stance.
“He’s going to provide more of what labor is looking for, but he is not antitrade,” said Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.
So what about his record now? Progressive Punch gives him a solid A rating as one of the 25 most progressive members of the House. He even opposed the Obama administration on surveillance:
After the congressional briefing, Xavier Becerra, leader of the House minority caucus, said there had not been enough oversight of government surveillance programs. "We are now glimpsing the damage," he said, referring to failures to repeal aspects of the Patriot Act sooner. "It was an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary time but it shouldn't have been extended."
Becerra has been a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus founded by Sanders for years, and works with the Co-Chair Raul Grijalva often. Asked about him, Grijalva says, “He’s a good guy.” One complaint Nancy Pelosi had about him is that he pushed for a public option against her wishes:
In the run-up to this month’s House vote on health care reform, Becerra suggested to the Congressional Progressive Caucus that party leaders gave up too easily on the favored “robust” public option.
That didn’t sit well with the speaker, and witnesses said she made her displeasure known to Becerra and other top Democrats at a subsequent leadership meeting.
“I understand I have tire tracks on my back because Xavier threw me under the bus,” witnesses quoted Pelosi as saying. The speaker went on to accuse Becerra of trying to improve his “street cred” with progressives by undercutting her.
So you might wonder, after favoring Obama in 2008, why would Becerra endorse Hillary Clinton?
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."
Immigration is the issue he’s criticized Sanders on the most. Another explanation he gives is this:
Mr. Becerra, continuing in Spanish, repeated a favorite saying, “Tell me with whom you walk, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
“I know with whom I walk,” he said, “because Hillary Clinton has walked with us for a long time.”
If Bernie Sanders supporters are looking for a VP they can support, Xavier Becerra walks with them:
At each stop he speaks about his father, Manuel, a construction worker with a sixth-grade education, and his mother, Maria, an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, who became a clerical worker because she couldn’t afford college. He questions if his parents' success could be possible today.
“Could today’s construction worker married to a clerical worker guarantee four children a college education and buy a house?” Becerra asks a group of Latino voters. “That’s what we’re fighting about.”