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Kamala Harris sworn in as US senator, Kenealy named acting California attorney general

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Biden swore in the newly elected and returning members on the Senate floor. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris participates in a reenacted swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 3, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Earlier in the day Biden swore in the newly elected and returning members on the Senate floor.

Kamala Harris stepped down as California's former attorney general and was sworn in Tuesday as a new U.S. senator, naming Kate Kenealy as the state’s acting attorney general before her departure.

The move comes after Gov. Jerry Brown announced last month that he had tapped Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Democrat representing downtown Los Angeles, as Harris' replacement as attorney general.

Brown officially submitted Becerra's nomination to the state Legislature Tuesday. The first hearing on the nomination is set for Jan. 10 in the Assembly.

Becerra must be confirmed by both the Assembly and Senate before he becomes the state’s attorney general, which is expected given the Democrats' dominance in both houses.

The congressman will likely serve as a high-profile legal opponent to any efforts by President-elect Donald Trump to overturn California's policies in areas like immigration and the environment.

In a letter dated Dec. 28 to Becerra, the Assembly Special Committee on the Office of the Attorney General asked the congressman to submit a written plan to address "critical issues" for California, among them immigration, civil rights, environmental protection, police accountability and consumer protection. 

"Donald Trump has made multiple statements that directly contradict California law and policy. Our next Attorney General will have great responsibility for protecting Californians and our values, and defending our laws," wrote the co-chairs, Assembly members Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr. and Mark Stone.

Becerra has invited President-elect Donald Trump's administration to "come at us," pledging to fight to preserve California's progressive programs. 

Kenealy will serve until the Legislature makes a final decision on whether Becerra will serve as attorney general. Kenealy previously worked as a deputy attorney general, and has served in the office for more than a decade, working on natural resources law, civil law, and children's justice, among other areas.

A spokesperson for Becerra said his office had no update on when the congressman plans to leave his seat. The governor will have two weeks from Becerra's departure to call a special election to fill the congressional seat. 

A list of candidates for the office has been growing, although several high-profile officeholders have bowed out of the running.