Rachel Levine is the first openly trans federal official confirmed by the U.S. Senate

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.