Biden HHS candidate Rachel Levine becomes first openly transgender federal official confirmed by US Senate

Biden HHS candidate Rachel Levine becomes first openly transgender federal official confirmed by US Senate


Former Pennsylvania health official Dr Rachel Levine got confirmation in the Senate on Wednesday to become the new deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The vote was 52-48. It was the first time in U.S. history that the Senate had confirmed an openly transgender federal official.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., called confirmation vote another “milestone” after Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay Cabinet member to be confirmed by the Senate in February.

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“The Biden administration has brought many historic firsts to its ranks,” Schumer said Wednesday ahead of the vote. “… Rachel Levine’s confirmation represents another important milestone for the American LGBTQ community. She will be the first openly transgender public servant ever to be confirmed by the United States Senate. The story arc is long, but it continues. to bow in the direction of Justice. “

FILE - In this March 12, 2020 file photo, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine provides an update on the coronavirus known as COVID-19 in Harrisburg, Pa., President-elect Joe Biden asked to Levine to be her Assistant Secretary of Health, leaving her on the verge of becoming the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the United States Senate.  (Joe Hermitt / The Patriot-News via AP, File)

FILE – In this March 12, 2020 file photo, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine provides an update on the coronavirus known as COVID-19 in Harrisburg, Pa., President-elect Joe Biden asked to Levine to be her Assistant Secretary of Health, leaving her on the verge of becoming the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the United States Senate. (Joe Hermitt / The Patriot-News via AP, File)
((Joe Hermitt / The Patriot-News via AP, file))

Levine will serve under the leadership of the new Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

In addition to managing medical, public health, and human service programs, the HHS department is responsible for securing the influx of unaccompanied migrant children who pass through the United States once they are released from border guard.

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During her confirmation hearing, some Republicans expressed concern over Levine’s handling of the coronavirus response in Pennsylvania, including deaths in nursing homes, and cast doubt on whether she deserves promotion.

Senator Richard Burr, RN.C., told Levine: “Along with the challenges of last spring’s testing, your state has failed to adequately protect nursing home residents from the virus and is making unacceptable mistakes in the vaccine distribution process. Pennsylvania is ranked as one of the most dangerous states for long-term care residents struggling with COVID-19. “

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., Insisted with Levine on his position on the “genital mutilation” of minors who may be “confused” about their gender identity and who want to take hormones or have surgery to change their body.

Levine evaded a straightforward answer and replied, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with solid research and standards of care that have been developed.”

Democrats criticized Paul for his line of questions.

Meanwhile, Schumer praised Levine’s qualifications for the job and said she remains “laser-focused” to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in Pennslyvania “despite several attacks on her gender identity over the course of the year. past year “.

Schumer said he hoped Levine’s prominent position in the Biden administration would further shatter stereotypes.

“While transgender Americans suffer from higher rates of abuse, homelessness and depression than almost any other group, it is important to have national figures like Dr. Levine, who, by being in the public limelight, will help break down the barriers of ignorance and fear, “Schumer says.

A Harvard-trained pediatrician and former Pennsylvania general practitioner, Levine was appointed Pennsylvania Secretary of Health by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people to hold elected or appointed positions in any country. the country. She is professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine.

In 2020, Levine became president of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials (ASTHO).

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She won confirmation from the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and was the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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