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Aerial view of the Pentagon building. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Shawn Skelly as assistant secretary of defense for readiness by unanimous consent.

Why it matters: Skelly, a retired Navy commander, is the second openly transgender person to be confirmed as a federal official. With Thursday's vote, she becomes the highest-ranking openly trans official at the Department of Defense, per the White House.

Her background: Skelly has been a vocal advocate for trans and more broadly LGBTQ rights.

  • She was a frequent critic of Trump-era bans on trans service members.
  • "There is no reason to think transgender Americans are incapable of meeting the qualifications and standards required of any other recruit or candidate," she wrote in an essay in Defense360 last year.
  • "It is not the presence of transgender service members which threatens military readiness, it is [the] policy’s very discrimination against them." Military readiness is defined as the military’s capacity to engage in combat and fulfill assigned missions and tasks.
  • As the assistant secretary of defense for readiness, she will play a key role as the Pentagon refocuses its priorities to target China and Russia.

The big picture: Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, was confirmed as assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services in March.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

Netflix under fire for handling of Dave Chappelle comments

Comedian Dave Chappelle in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July. Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos on Monday responded to growing frustrations among employees about the company's handling of anti-transgender comments made by comedian Dave Chappelle in his most recent Netflix special "The Closer."

Yes, but: His justification has only intensified frustrations, sources told Axios on Wednesday.

2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats brace for staredown over paid family medical leave

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senior House Democrats are braced for battle with the Senate over whether paid family medical leave — a key priority for progressives — will be included in President Biden’s final budget reconciliation bill, lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated he wants to cut the program to reduce the bill's price tag. “Paid family and medical leave must be in the final package,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Axios on Monday.

34 mins ago - World

Poland showdown is EU's Jan. 6 moment, top official says

Didier Reynders. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Poland and Hungary have forced a moment of reflection on the European Union — similar to the one in the U.S. after the Jan. 6 insurrection, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told Axios.

What he's saying: "During many years, we have had in our minds that it was granted that if you are a member of the EU, of course you apply the rule of law; you have full respect for democracy, fundamental rights and so on — maybe with some concerns but with a real intention to adapt your legislation to be in full compliance [with EU law]," Reynders said.