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Top Public Health Nominee Rachel Levine Wins Senate’s Approval

March 24, 2021, 9:33 PM

President Joe Biden’s pick to lead a key public health office within the HHS, Rachel Levine, was confirmed Wednesday by the full Senate.

The Senate approved 52-48 the nomination of Rachel Levine to serve as assistant secretary for health of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The votes came one week after the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted to advance her nomination. Her nomination received bipartisan support from the panel’s members.

Her confirmation comes at a critical point for the Biden adminisitration in battling the pandemic. The death toll for the Covid-19 pandemic is at over 536,000 people, and the department’s key agencies are working with acting officials because almost all of their leaders await Senate confirmation.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was confirmed last week. The Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general Tuesday.

Levine was confirmed three times by the Republican-led Pennsylvania state Senate to serve as the commonwealth’s secretary of health and physician general.

During her time as secretary of health, she also led the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, where she was sometimes critical of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, including officials’ statements regarding when vaccines might become available.

She was a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine and has written about the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine, all of which are issues that could be under her purview as assistant secretary of health.

Once sworn in, she will be the highest ranking openly transgender person in any administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at; Karl Hardy at