Senate confirms Levine to be the nation’s assistant secretary of health as activists hail appointment as a historic breakthrough

AP NEWS

The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed the 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 was 52-48. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined 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.

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

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,” Biden said.

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.

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