Politics

Nominee for California attorney general clears 1st hurdle

House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) speaks to members of the media after a House Democratic Caucus meeting in this June 22, 2016 file photo. Becerra, the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, has been nominated to replace former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) speaks to members of the media after a House Democratic Caucus meeting in this June 22, 2016 file photo. Becerra, the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, has been nominated to replace former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra on Tuesday cleared the first hurdle to becoming California's next attorney general, vowing to defend the state's liberal policies against President-elect Donald Trump and support law enforcement to cut down on crime.

An Assembly committee controlled by Democrats voted 6-3 along party lines to support Becerra, a Los Angeles-area Democrat and the highest-ranking Latino in Congress. He will now be considered by the full chamber.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Becerra to replace Kamala Harris as the state's top law enforcement official after she was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.

Responding to questioning, Becerra told Republicans on the Assembly Special Committee on the Office of the Attorney General that he would support local law enforcement and promised Democrats he would vigorously defend California laws from federal interference.

Both chambers of the Legislature must confirm Becerra, who is scheduled to appear before the Senate Rules Committee next week.

In a letter sent before Tuesday's hearing, Becerra told the Assembly committee that he plans to defend California's immigration and climate change policies if confirmed. He pointed to the policy of stop-and-frisk, a tactic in which police stop and search people they deem suspicious, as one area he would challenge the president-elect. During his campaign, Trump said he supports the policy.

Brown nominated Becerra Jan. 3, giving the lawmakers 90 days to confirm him.

Becerra has represented parts of Los Angeles in Congress for more than two decades. He worked as a deputy attorney general for three years before he was elected to the California Assembly in 1990.

Kathleen "Kate" Alice Kenealy is serving as acting attorney general until the position is formally filled.

This story has been updated.