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Gov. Lujan Grisham, If Picked As HHS Secretary, Says She'd Keep 'Eye On The Prize'

Michelle Lujan Grisham has been discussed as a possible head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Toya Sarno Jordan
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Michelle Lujan Grisham has been discussed as a possible head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democratic governor of New Mexico, on Friday said if tapped to join the incoming Biden administration as Health and Human Services secretary, she would focus on leading the United States through the pandemic the same way she had done as head of her state.

"Your eye on the prize is making sure that you're saving lives. And to do that, you really have to figure out what public health practices and what public health restrictions keep the virus from spreading as rapidly," she told NPR's All Things Considered on Friday.

Grisham has been floated as a potential HHS secretary, but she was reported to have turned down the offer of another Cabinet post — interior secretary.

She also discussed the bipartisan approach she and Republican leadership took to provide economic relief to New Mexico during the pandemic.

"We are preparing for the worst of COVID-19. But we can't wait any longer. So, clearly, it has an impact, and it minimizes our ability to deal with other shortfalls in our next regular session in January. But you can't let your constituents worry about whether they can pay their mortgage or put food on the table," Grisham said.

When asked why New Mexico had been able to pass a stimulus bill when the U.S. Congress had not, Grisham responded: "My job is to save lives. And I do that more effectively if I'm clear about the decisions that we make that there's another aspect to shore everybody up equally."

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have pushed for Biden to name Lujan Grisham as his nominee for HHS secretary. They also reportedly expressed some frustration at how the transition process has played out, including reports that she turned down an offer to serve as interior secretary. Speaking to NPR, Lujan Grisham, who is also part the Biden-Harris transition team, said she understood the caucus' push but that it was still early in the process.

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Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.

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