By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There were fireworks on Capitol Hill on Thursday during the confirmation hearing of Dr. Rachel Levine, the former Pennsylvania secretary of health. Levine is transgender and has been appointed by President Joe Biden to be the assistant secretary of health. Some of the fiery questioning on Thursday centered on transgender issues.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky criticized Levine for her support of gender-confirmation surgery and hormone therapy for minors. Now, he’s being accused of making harmful misrepresentations and looking for a fight with Levine.

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“Let it go into the record that the witness refused to answer the question,” Paul said.

Paul verbally attacked Levine during her Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. Levine, if confirmed, would be the highest-ranking openly trans official in the federal government.

Much of the hearing focused on the pandemic and other health issues, but Paul’s questions centered on what’s being called transphobic misinformation.

“Genital mutilation is considered particularly egregious,” Paul said.

The senator inaccurately described gender-affirming surgery and hormone treatments prescribed for transgender adolescence.

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“Dr. Levine, do you believe minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Paul asked Levine.

“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” Levine answered. “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as assistant secretary of health, I would look forward to working with you.”

Levine gave the same answer to a barrage of accusations and questions from Paul, who was widely criticized on social media.

Dr. Sherman Leis, a world-renowned transgender surgeon who operates in the Philadelphia region, called Paul’s comments discriminatory.

“I think he’s terribly misinformed and ill-educated on the subject of transgender medicine and surgery,” Leis said. “Those remarks have nothing to do with Rachel Levine, who’s a highly qualified physician. She’s trained in pediatrics and psychiatry.”

Conservatives have criticized the nomination of Levine over concerns that she would “normalize being transgender,” but LGBTQ+ advocate groups have celebrated her nomination.

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Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said in a statement, “Despite attempts by some Republican Senators to disparage Dr. Levine, she demonstrated why she is the crisis-tested leader we need as Assistant Secretary for Health right now. Her significant expertise and experience were evident as she highlighted her work in Pennsylvania to reduce opioid overdoses and save rural hospitals, while outlining the challenges ahead in our Nation’s ongoing fight against COVID-19. I look forward to Dr. Levine’s nomination moving forward in the Senate, and I will be proud to vote for her ultimate confirmation.”

Stephanie Stahl