Dr. Rachel Levine became the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, making Levine the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate.
Levine was confirmed 52-48 largely along party lines, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) defecting.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) applauded Levine’s confirmation. “The arc of history is long but it keeps bending in the direction of justice,” he said. “As transgender Americans suffer higher rates of abuse, homelessness and depression than almost every other group, it’s important to have national figures like Dr. Levine who, by virtue of being in the public spotlight, will help break down barriers of ignorance and fear.”
History made: Dr. Rachel Levine was just confirmed as the next Assistant Secretary for Health, becoming the first-ever openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate.
Trans people are leaders, innovators and change-makers — and we deserve a seat at every table. pic.twitter.com/bNotSqaWDu
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 24, 2021
Levine, who was formerly Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, faced accusations of incompetence regarding Pennsylvania’s handling of COVID-19.
“Along with the testing challenges from last spring, your state failed to adequately protect nursing home residents from the virus, and is making unacceptable mistakes in the vaccine distribution process,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said at Levine’s confirmation hearing.
In August, Levine outraged even Democratic state lawmakers when Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI uncovered legal documents reportedly proving that Levine had come to a confidential settlement agreement with a car show in Harrisburg that allowed them to skirt the lockdown. Citing it as an “ongoing legal issue,” Levine refused repeated opportunities to explain why tens of thousands were allowed to shuffle through the car show’s four-day event during a time when outdoor gatherings were limited to 250 people or fewer.
Levine also recently clashed with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) regarding sex change surgeries for minors. As The Daily Wire reported:
Dr. Rachel Levine evaded questions from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday regarding Levine’s support for giving children puberty blockers and sex-change surgeries.
Paul warned that American culture is in the process of socially normalizing sex changes for minors, either through puberty-blocking hormones or surgery.
“Dr. Levine, you have supported both allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty, as well as surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia,” Paul grilled, noting the permanent effects of such measures. He cited a statistic from the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) that “80 to 95 percent of pre-pubertal children with gender dysphoria will experience resolution by late adolescence if not exposed to medical intervention and social affirmation.”
Levine, who is transgender, dodged Paul’s question [regarding] whether minors are capable of making a decision as life-altering as changing one’s sex.
“Well, senator, thank you for your interest in this question,” Levine said. “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.”
Paul noted Levine did not answer his question.
.@RandPaul: "Do you support the government intervening to override the parents' consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia…?@SecretaryLevine: "Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field." pic.twitter.com/ylKokhTMwo
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 25, 2021