02.25.21

Murray Urges Quick Confirmation for Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Murthy and Assistant Secretary for Health Nominee Dr. Levine

Murray stressed that confirming Drs. Murthy and Levine is critical to getting our COVID response back on track

 

Murray highlights Dr. Murthy’s experience as Surgeon General in the Obama Administration and Dr. Levine’s experience leading Pennsylvania’s COVID response

 

Senator Murray: “We all know this pandemic isn’t going to be stopped by partisan politics. It’s going to be stopped by swift action, and by public health experts like Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine.”

 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

  

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) urged her colleagues to support and confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, nominee for Surgeon General, and Dr. Rachel Levine, nominee for Assistant Secretary for Health, in order to get the nation’s COVID response on track. Following the previous Administration’s political interference in public health and complete lack of transparency, ending this crisis will require seating trusted health experts. Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine are exceptionally qualified candidates who can debunk misinformation and rumors, promote public health guidance, including on mask wearing and social distancing, encourage vaccinations and inform people about vaccine safety and efficacy and more.

 

“We all know this pandemic isn’t going to be stopped by partisan politics,” said Senator Murray in her opening remarks. “It’s going to be stopped by swift action, and by public health experts like Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine. So I hope we can come together to confirm them in quick bipartisan fashion, and work with them the way families across the country so desperately need us to.”

 

During the hearing, Senator Murray lauded Dr. Murthy as a crisis-tested leader who is uniquely qualified to help the American people navigate the health challenges ahead of us—because he has done the job before as President Obama’s Surgeon General. Specifically, Senator Murray pointed to Dr. Murthy’s leadership on navigating our country through public health emergencies like the Zika epidemic in 2016, leading the charge against the opioid crisis, addressing the youth tobacco epidemic, and his efforts to bring attention to mental health issues threatening American lives—an issue that is all the more urgent given the trauma of this pandemic.

 

“One of the reasons I know Dr. Murthy is the right pick to serve as Surgeon General, is because he has already done the job, and done it well. During his last tenure as America’s doctor, he established himself as a trusted voice on public health issues,” said Senator Murray. “He proved why he’s exactly the kind of leader we need as Surgeon General today. I was proud to vote to confirm him as Surgeon General back in 2014. I’m proud to support his nomination to return to the role now, and I’m hopeful my colleagues will join me in working to get him in place quickly.”

 

Senator Murray also highlighted that Dr. Levine’s experience as the highest ranking public health official in the state of Pennsylvania leading the state’s COVID response—and her firsthand understanding of what states and communities are going through and what support they need from the federal government—will make her an invaluable member of the Biden Administration’s COVID response team. In addition to working on the frontlines of this pandemic, as the state’s physician general, and as a pediatrician, Dr. Levine has spent her career helping patients, families, and communities stay healthy. Dr. Levine is ready to hit the ground running as soon as she is confirmed to help President Biden tackle the pandemic and address the nation’s public health challenges.

 

“Dr. Levine is a public health expert who has a firsthand understanding of the challenges our states are facing, and the support they need,” said Senator Murray. “She served the state as Physician General—a position the Republican-led state Senate confirmed her to unanimously, and then as the state’s Secretary of Health—a position she was confirmed to by an overwhelming 49-1 margin.  Given her clear qualifications, and the urgency of this crisis, I hope she will have similar bipartisan support here.”

 

Senator Murray also noted the historic nature of Dr. Levine’s nomination—as the highest ranking openly transgender official in the U.S. government—and the strong bipartisan support she has received in the Pennsylvania state senate when confirmed to her past public health positions.  

 

Senator Murray’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, below.

 

“Dr. Murthy, Dr. Levine, thank you both for joining us today. 

“While I haven’t been able to meet either of you in person since your nominations, I was pleased to speak with each of you about the challenges our nation is facing, and I look forward to continuing those conversations today, and working with you both in the future—remotely for now, and  in person when this pandemic is over.

 

“Of course, in order to end this pandemic—and rebuild our nation stronger and fairer—the Biden Administration needs all hands on deck as soon as possible.

“Which is why it’s so important this Committee move quickly to consider and confirm qualified nominees like Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine.

 

“We have lost over half a million people to this pandemic, to say nothing of the countless other ways it has upended the lives of families across the country.

“We desperately need trusted public health experts who can debunk misinformation and rumors, promote public health guidance on mask wearing, social distancing, and more, and encourage vaccinations and inform people about vaccine safety and efficacy.

 

“We desperately need leaders who understand what our communities are going though, and who will go above and beyond to help states, cities, and Tribes get the support they need.

 

“In other words: we need people like Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine.

 

“Dr. Murthy is a crisis-tested leader who is uniquely qualified to help the American people navigate the health challenges ahead of us.


“I’ll say more about his impressive record shortly—but one of the reasons I know Dr. Murthy is the right pick to serve as Surgeon General, is because he has already done the job, and done it well.

“During his last tenure as America’s doctor, he established himself as a trusted voice on public health issues, saw our nation through public health emergencies like the Zika epidemic in 2016, led the charge against the opioid crisis, and shined a light on how stress, isolation, and other mental health issues threaten Americans’ wellbeing—an issue that is all the more urgent given the trauma of this pandemic.

 

“In short, he proved why he’s exactly the kind of leader we need as Surgeon General today.

 

“I was proud to vote to confirm him as Surgeon General back in 2014. I’m proud to support his nomination to return to the role now, and I’m hopeful my colleagues will join me in working to get him in place quickly.

 

“I’m also proud to support the nomination of Dr. Levine who is a highly qualified and historic choice to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health.

 

“I’ve always said our government should represent the people it serves, and the nomination of Dr. Levine—who would make history as the highest-ranking openly transgender official in the U.S. government—brings us one step closer in making sure that happens.

 

“Dr. Levine is a public health expert who has a firsthand understanding of the challenges our states are facing, and the support they need.

 

“As the highest-ranking health official in Pennsylvania, Dr. Levine led the state’s COVID-19 response and advocated for the resources and support Pennsylvanians needed. 

 

“She focused on transparency and clear, science-based communication throughout the response, and gave daily briefings on the status of the pandemic.

 

“But even before this crisis, Dr. Levine established herself as a trusted voice to the people of Pennsylvania on matters of public health through her work to establish opioid prescribing guidelines and education for medical students, make lifesaving treatment for opioid overdoses widely available, combat eating disorders, increase health equity, and help the LGBTQ community get health care.

 

“She served the state as Physician General—a position the Republican-led state Senate confirmed her to unanimously, and then as the state’s Secretary of Health—a position she was confirmed to by an overwhelming 49-1 margin.

 

“Given her clear qualifications, and the urgency of this crisis, I hope she will have similar bipartisan support here.

 

“Because a pandemic isn’t the time to focus on politics, we need to focus on getting people reliable information from expert voices they trust, getting states, Tribes, and communities the resources and support they need, getting testing, tracing, and vaccinations up, and bringing new cases down.

 

“We need to focus on providing mental health care as the nation grapples with the trauma of this pandemic and on eliminating inequities that existed long before this crisis, have grown worse during it, and have made the pandemic so much more deadly for communities of color.

 

“We all know this pandemic isn’t going to be stopped by partisan politics.

 

“It’s going to be stopped by swift action, and by public health experts like Dr. Murthy and Dr. Levine.

So I hope we can come together to confirm them in quick bipartisan fashion, and work with them the way families across the country so desperately need us to.

 

“Finally, I seek unanimous consent to put in the record 29 letters in support of Dr. Murthy's nomination representing over 100 individuals and groups, and 51 letters in support of Dr. Levine's nomination representing over 400 individuals and groups, including hospitals, public health groups, patient advocates, medical schools and universities, LGBTQ advocacy groups and clinicians, faith based and medical organizations, reproductive rights and family planning groups, civil rights groups, and more. So ordered.

 

“Now I’ll recognize Ranking Member Burr for his opening remarks.”

 

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