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U.S. Senate Confirmation Hearing Underway For Dr. Rachel Levine's Historic Nomination For HHS Assistant Secretary

(KDKA/CNN) -- A Senate confirmation hearing is taking place today for President Joe Biden's pick to serve as assistant health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, who is the former director of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

She would make history as the first out transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.

The hearing before the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee will also consider the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as U.S. surgeon general, a role Murthy held under the Obama administration.

Levine previously served as the Pennsylvania health secretary under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration.

"Dr. Rachel 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 -- and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond," Biden said in a statement on the nomination at the time it was announced. "She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration's health efforts."

Asia Russell, a medical assistant for Central Outreach, has the goal of giving comfortable and comprehensive care to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

"Why not give back to the community I'm from?" said Russell.

This is the type of dedication she demands from Dr. Levine.

"For her to be on the forefront and also be trans is a big step in the right direction for us," Russell told KDKA.

Some are hopeful the former Pennsylvania health secretary addresses insurance companies in the fight for transition-related coverage, like some gender-affirmation procedures.

Asta Kill of Pittsburgh said, "The insurance says they are covering everything necessary, but they are not covering that part."

"They don't even recognize trans as a thing. You might not get your hormones. They might not cover your visits for blood work," said Russell. "The only other option for those kinds of things is ordering your stuff from overseas, which is really sketchy because you don't know how much medicine is in there."

With transgender representation entering the federal arena, members of the transgender community are hoping judgment will be shattered along with the glass ceiling.

"I hope she reiterates for people that being trans is not a choice because nobody wants to be picked on and things like that," Russell said.

Sen. Patty Murray, the committee chair, said during Thursday's confirmation hearing that she hopes to get the nominee confirmed quickly. Additional questions are due this Friday.

The hearing record remains open for 10 days.

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