US Senate confirms transgender Jewish doctor as assistant health secretary

Voting mostly along party lines, the US Senate confirms former Pennsylvania health secretary Rachel Levine to be the nation’s assistant secretary of health. She is the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation.

The final vote is 52-48. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine join all Democrats in supporting Levine.

Levine had been serving as Pennsylvania’s top health official since 2017, and emerged as the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She is expected to oversee Health and Human Services offices and programs across the US.

US President Joe Biden cited Levine’s experience when he nominated her in January.

Transgender-rights activists have hailed Levine’s appointment as a historic breakthrough. Few trans people have ever held high-level offices at the federal or state level.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine meets with the media at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, May 29, 2020. (Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News via AP, File)
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