Dr. Rachel Levine was confirmed as assistant secretary for health by the U.S. Senate following her work as Pennsylvania's secretary of health during the Covid pandemic. In an otherwise party-line 52-48 vote, Sens. Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Collins (R-Maine) were the only Republicans who voted to confirm Levine.
Levine began her medical career as a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and she is a professor at the Penn State College of Medicine, where she teaches on topics such as adolescent medicine, eating disorders and transgender medicine. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine.
In a statement in January about the nomination, President Biden said Levine "will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their ZIP code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond."
The confirmation hearing was exceptionally nasty, even by the GOP's post-Trump standards, with Sen. Rand Paul, (R-Ky.) combatively questioning her on gender issues and describing reassignment surgery as "genital mutilation." Levine was the adult in the exchange:
"Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed and, if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine."
Correction: Sen. Collins also voted to confirm Levine.