The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted on Wednesday to advance the nominations of Dr. Vivek Murthy for U.S. Surgeon General and Dr. Rachel Levine for Assistant Secretary for Health.
"Dr. Murthy is a highly experienced, crisis-tested leader who understands the public health challenges our communities are facing and will be a trusted voice on public health issues to ensure people have the information and support they need to keep themselves and their families safe," said HELP Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement.
"Dr. Levine led Pennsylvania’s pandemic response with a commitment to transparency and science – and at our hearing she made clear that she would bring this same commitment to the Department of Health and Human Services," Murray added.
WHY IT MATTERS
Both would-be appointees were advanced along bipartisan lines, although fewer Republicans voted for Levine than for Murthy.
Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Susan Collins, Maine; Mitt Romney, Utah; Bill Cassidy, La.; and Roger Marshall, Kan., joined all the HELP Committee Democrats in voting 16-6 for Murthy.
Dr. Murthy served as Surgeon General from 2014 to 2017, prior to being ousted by former President Donald Trump.
Murkowksi and Collins also joined all the HELP Committee Democrats to advance Levine's nomination 13 to 9.
Dr. Levine, currently Pennsylvania's top health official, would be the first openly trans official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
"She’s a highly qualified nominee who is not only critical to our pandemic response but would also make history as the highest-ranking openly transgender official in the U.S. government. I urge all my Senate colleagues to support her nomination to help end this pandemic – and to get us one step closer to ensuring our government represents the people it serves," said Murray.
Republican Senators Rand Paul, Ky.; Mike Braun, Ind.; Tim Scott, S.C.; Tommy Tuberville, Ala.; and Jerry Moran, Kan., voted against advancing both nominees, as did ranking member Sen. Richard Burr, N.C.
THE LARGER TREND
Drs. Murthy and Levine faced a lengthy Senate committee hearing this past month, with members asking both nominees about the opioid crisis, telehealth and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Their advancement follows that of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who signaled his support for digital health in front of the HELP committee this February.
ON THE RECORD
"As the Biden Administration works to end this pandemic, we need all hands on deck – so I urge all my colleagues in the Senate to support Dr. Murthy’s nomination and confirm him so he can get to work," said Murray.