U.S. Senate confirms Michigan's Bagenstos to be Health and Human Services lawyer

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — The U.S. Senate voted 49-43 along party lines Thursday afternoon to confirm Michigan attorney Sam Bagenstos to serve as general counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The agency houses several programs that are important to President Joe Biden personally, including the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a new federal agency to support a high-risk approach to disease research and discovery.

Bagenstos, 52, has been general counsel of the White House Office of Management and Budget since the beginning of the Biden administration. Before taking on that role, he spent about 14 years as a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. 

The U.S. Senate confirmed former University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos to be general counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At OMB, Bagenstos has advised Director Shalanda Young and staff across the largest executive department in the Office of the President whose mission is aiding the administration with policy, budget, management and regulatory priorities. 

In his new position, Bagenstos will be advising Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and other leaders of the federal agency with the government's largest budget, thanks in part to massive programs such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

HHS administers more than 100 programs among its divisions, and funding for 2022 was estimated at nearly $1.6 trillion, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. 

The agency houses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, Administration for Children & Families and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Bagenstos' expertise is in constitutional and civil rights litigation. He ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic nominee for the Michigan Supreme Court in 2018. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and Harvard Law School, and clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Samuel Bagenstos accepts his party's endorsement for Michigan Supreme Court.

Bagenstos worked in Washington during the Obama administration from 2009-11 as a political appointee in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served as the No. 2 official in the Civil Rights Division. One of his projects while at the Justice Department was promulgating regulations for the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Bagenstos has consulted with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and other civil rights organizations and has argued four cases before the Supreme Court, including the 2015 case against UPS that fought for protections for pregnant employees.

Bagenstos also served on the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and was chair of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which is charged with enforcing the rights of public employees to unionize and collectively bargain.