Senate Dems stand behind doing nothing about the VA scandal
Senate Democrats have apparently decided that blindly following President Obama in whatever he does about the VA scandal is better than calling for Secretary Shineski's head and passing legislation that will help fix the mess at the VA.
Senate Democrats are closing ranks behind Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and President Obama’s decision to keep him in the cabinet despite Republican calls for his ouster.
As of Thursday afternoon, not a single Democratic senator had called for Shinseki's resignation.
And Senate Democrats have been slow to embrace House-passed legislation that would give Shinseki the authority to fire senior executives.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) questioned whether legislation could address the VA’s problems, noting “most of it has to be done administratively.”
Senate leaders also expressed support for the Cabinet member on Thursday.
“I think he’s doing a thorough review as he should of VA medical centers on the scheduling issue,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).
Richard Griffin, the VA’s acting inspector general, plans to release his own report on allegations that VA facilities concealed the wait times for veterans seeking medical treatment. Critics say that dozens of veterans may have died while waiting for treatment.
Pressure has built this week on the White House to take action on the VA controversy, and calls from Democrats for Shinseki’s head have emerged.
But only a few Democrats have joined Republicans in demanding his ouster so far.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running to unseat Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), and two conservative House Democrats from Georgia, John Barrow and David Scott, have called for him to step down.
“Members will keep a close eye on what the investigations bring forward but right now he has strong support within the caucus,” said a senior Democratic aide.
Shinseki’s support on the Hill could quickly evaporate if investigators find he had knowledge of efforts to deceive veterans.
Vulnerable Senate Democrats said any VA officials found responsible for misleading veterans should be fired.
“Reports of improper scheduling practices that have resulted in life-threatening delays for our veterans are completely unacceptable, and there must be a full investigation to immediately determine the extent of the problem and hold accountable those responsible, no matter who it is,” said Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), one of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbents.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), who has a competitive race in Oregon, said, “It's a huge problem, huge problem. We have to get to the bottom of who's responsible. Whoever's responsible should lose their jobs.”
But Schumer, the Democrats’ chief political strategist, voiced a confident note in arguing the scandal would not hurt Democrats in the mid-term election.
“The president is taking decisive action,” he said.
Oh really? Just what has our Ditherer in Chief done about the scandal to date?
President Barack Obama wants to talk about flexing his administrative and executive power to do more. Instead, he got stuck talking about a clear administrative and executive failure that, at least so far, he hasn’t done much about.
And this one’s no contained, bureaucratic flub. The problems at the Veterans Affairs Department have engulfed an entire Cabinet department and may have left hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for care, and as many as 40 of them dead.
The latest stumbles have been a fresh reminder of the story line the White House has been trying to recover from since the fall, when the Obamacare website flopped, the key poll numbers about the president’s competence collapsed so deeply that they’re still far from recovering, and Democrats went into an apocalyptic panic about the midterms.
That’s exactly what Republicans have been hoping for.
GOP leaders and officials have spent the past week talking about the backlogs and misconduct, but what they’re hoping voters hear is: Obama is still an unprepared executive who needs to be stripped of power in the midterms. Once again, they say, he’s presenting himself as an angry bystander, confronted with high-profile management failures on his watch that he says he learned about from news reports.
So Obama does little, Shineski stays where he is, and accountability goes by the boards. In the Democrat's world, it's always some one else's fault. This makes it easy to close ranks and pretend that the problem is being dealt with rather than face reality and get busy fixing things.