Rubio VA reform bill suddenly becoming very popular … with vulnerable Democrats

posted at 2:01 pm on May 29, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

One week ago, Senate Democrats couldn’t be bothered to grant more authority for the VA Secretary — which Eric Shinseki may not be for much longer — to fire people involved in the fraud and cover-up in the scandal engulfing the agency. Chuck Schumer opposed a bipartisan House bill and suggested that the VA should just handle the issue “administratively,” which is exactly what the bill empowered the VA to accomplish. Suddenly, though, Marco Rubio’s companion bill has attracted a lot more support in the upper chamber from Democrats, especially from those facing election in November:

Five Senate Democrats, including some of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbents, have signed onto legislation sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) giving the secretary of Veterans Affairs more power to fire underperforming officials.

Democrats have flocked to Rubio’s version of the bill that passed the House last week 390 to 33.

“This legislation would bring basic accountability to the VA and ensure the people responsible for the gross negligence and mistreatment of our nation’s heroes are punished,” Rubio said in a statement.

“I hope more Senate Democrats will join Republicans in sponsoring this measure and insist that Democratic leadership drop their obstruction to this common sense legislation,” he added.

Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Warner (Va.), who are all running for re-election, signed onto Rubio’s bill Wednesday. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) co-sponsored the measure last week.

It’s not terribly clear why Senate Democrats didn’t go for this in the first place. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes that their leadership wanted to leave the issue with Bernie Sanders, who heads up the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Sanders, though, has been in almost continuous denial about the scope and depth of the issue at the VA ever since whistleblowers first emerged to reveal the fraud and deception. He held a hearing on the subject, but otherwise has done little else. Meanwhile, all but 33 House members endorsed legislation to shake up the VA while Harry Reid, Schumer, and Sanders dither, and give Rubio an opportunity to look like a real leader.

The Washington Post editorial board took another swipe at the Obama administration on Monday, this time on the VA scandal. They argued that the leadership failure is not just a VA problem, but emblematic of the Obama administration — and then oddly included Congress, too:

AT THE Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government’s largest employer (the Army ranks second), only 56.9 percent of employees believe they can disclose a suspected violation of law or regulation without fear of reprisal. Even fewer — 46.1 percent — feel “a high level of respect” for their senior leaders. Fewer still — 37 percent — are satisfied with the policies and practices of those leaders.

Quite an indictment, you may say, one that confirms congressional demands for the summary firing of Eric K. Shinseki, the Cabinet secretary in charge of the VA. But the numbers for the government as a whole are barely more encouraging than for Mr. Shinseki’s domain: 58.4 percent, 49 percent and 38.8 percent, respectively.

We don’t have a Shinseki problem, in other words. We have a President Obama problem. We have a Congress problem. We have a civil service system “in crisis,” as the Partnership for Public Service said in a recent report.

The contours of the VA scandal, involving alleged deception about the waiting time for treatment at veterans hospitals, are depressingly familiar. Disclosure is followed by politicians’ howls of outrage at perfidious civil servants, demands for firing and “accountability,” more investigations and more firings, until public attention wanes. The howls are particularly screeching this time, because everyone wants to be pro-veteran, and the proposed congressional solution — allowing any VA senior executive to be fired at will, with no due process and no protection for whistleblowers — is particularly appalling. But the trajectory was similar when it involved the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Hurricane Katrina or the Internal Revenue Service and the tea party or the Department of Health and Human Services and HealthCare.gov.

They call this lack of ethics and confidence the “true VA scandal,” which is ludicrous in the face of the dozens of deaths caused by neglect. That’s the true scandal at the VA, and the fraud and deception that allowed it, and the lack of any executive competence and accountability that enabled all of the above. And those failures are executive-branch failures, not legislative failures.

In the specific case of the VA, Congress has increased the VA budget by 78% during Obama’s presidency, adding $235 billion in extra spending over six budget cycles. Congress does not run these agencies — they only fund and have limited oversight over them. Responsibility for their operation falls on the executive branch, as do their failures.

Michael Ramirez agrees that we have “a President Obama problem,”  and he comes a lot closer to the mark in identifying it than does the Post’s editorial board:

ramirez-va-comics

Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history.  Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here.  And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Finally. An actual scandal.

libfreeordie on May 19, 2014 at 3:48 PM

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:03 PM

VADeathPanelsForBonusesGate

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:03 PM

This is getting tiresome.
Nothing will change.

LeftCoastRight on May 29, 2014 at 2:04 PM

A president problem – surely you jest! It simply cannot be? Please get into the pod …

Chuck Ef on May 29, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Most criminal administration in all of history and Holder is the top prosecutor, heh.

Ezekiel Jonathan “Zeke” Emanuel to replace Shitseki.

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:03 PM

Libby’s self-referential comment is disturbing, no?

Chuck Ef on May 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

“This legislation would bring basic accountability to the VA and ensure the people responsible for the gross negligence and mistreatment of our nation’s heroes are punished,” Rubio said in a statement.

“accountability”

Yep, sure, uh-huh…’cause that always means sooooo much in the way of having teeth and actual positive results.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Libby’s self-referential comment is disturbing, no?

Chuck Ef on May 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

liblikeaslave is disturbed and disturbing, and choomed, on your dole.

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Yeah, more ‘reform’ laws will make our bloated and corrupt government accountable.

Wigglesworth on May 29, 2014 at 2:08 PM

So when do we get to the point where we start dealing with the VA scandal via the judicial system?

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:10 PM

VADeathPanelsForBonusesGate

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:03 PM

I’d go with “EncouragingVeteransToDieSoICanLineMyPocketsWithCashGate”

VegasRick on May 29, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Also awful, breaking today

In 2010 alone, 6.7 billion, not million, dollars were ‘mis-coded’ and paid out to dr. crooks and other crooks on Medicare fraud and wrong coding/charges.

Nothing will be done, because “it’s too expensive to fix it”.

I bet you anything that the Feinsteins are in there for several hundreds of millions and many crooks in DC are too, to the highest levels.

In many cases there were every other day drug tests done, by one doctor to 1.5 patients, an impossibility. Nothing will be followed up…wonder why? Stuffed pockets of politicians like Feinstein and her husband, who have defrauded Medicare by the hundreds of millions, under different company names.

Medicare is one of the biggest frauds in the land.

Good luck with obama’care’.

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Lolz!!! Like 0 is actually smart enough to know how to knit!

Bmore on May 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Here’s the link

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Ramirez is spot on as always.

It’s not terribly clear why Senate Democrats didn’t go for this in the first place.

Seems pretty clear to me: firing anyone in most government positions would probably cause the loss of a job to a Democrat. They’re just protecting their own.

To Democrats, most vets are conservative/Republican, so it makes more sense to them to save a job and not worry about killing vets.

Mark Boabaca on May 29, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Lolz!!! Like 0 is actually smart enough to know how to knit!

Bmore on May 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Someone has to fix the holes in his mom jeans.

Mark Boabaca on May 29, 2014 at 2:15 PM

They call this lack of ethics and confidence the “true VA scandal,” which is ludicrous in the face of the dozens of deaths caused by neglect. That’s the true scandal at the VA, and the fraud and deception that allowed it, and the lack of any executive competence and accountability that enabled all of the above. And those failures are executive-branch failures, not legislative failures.

The core problem, beyond the appalling incompetence and prioritization of ideological loyalty over competence, lies within the so-called professional bureaucracy that exists in every single department / agency / commission that exists in the Federal government. As we’ve seen in the quasi-socialist states of Europe – or the fully socialist states of the PRC or the old Soviet bloc – so-called professional bureaucrats operate solely in their own best interests and not towards any semblance of service to the people.

We have a fundamental problem when those in the government believe that the people are responsible and accountable to them as opposed to the government being accountable and responsible to the people.

Until we undertake wholesale purges of these so-called professional bureaucrats – little will change.

Athos on May 29, 2014 at 2:16 PM

The last one on the VA waiting list…

Please turn off the lights….

Electrongod on May 29, 2014 at 2:16 PM

OT, of stupid cows and double standards

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:16 PM

We have a civil service system “in crisis,” as the Partnership for Public Service said in a recent report.

The federal civil service is not “in crisis,” i.e, a “victim” it is out of control. And it is the direct result of dependency on government to take care of the citizens. Which is Dear Liar’s true belief.

rbj on May 29, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Ramirez is a genius. Obama’s wearing Pajama Boy flannels.

de rigueur on May 29, 2014 at 2:17 PM

After November look to the Dems to say “VA what is this VA you speak of?”

neyney on May 29, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Conspiracy. RICO? Prosecuted by Holder? Naw!

butch on May 29, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Lolz!!! Like 0 is actually smart enough to know how to knit!

Bmore on May 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

He didn’t build that!!!!

But he will find someone to blame..

Electrongod on May 29, 2014 at 2:19 PM

THey could save a lot of money if they would eliminate the VA and just issue Vet Care health insurance cards that can be used with any doctor/hospital. Without all the beauracracy to pay for, they could probably pay full price for treatment.

Dexter_Alarius on May 29, 2014 at 2:24 PM

I think it time we take a page out of the leftist playbook and start a social media campaign. Folks standing in front of VA facilities with a sign reading #BringThemBackAlive!

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:24 PM

“Senator Rubio’s VA Reform bill is nothing but a giveaway to the Koch Brothers and is dead on arrival.”

- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Gator Country on May 29, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Rubio is dangerous.

Firing people at the VA won’t help veterans get better care. It will help Obama deflect blame. It will help Obama to fire any conservatives working for the VA.

The GOP should be using the VA to point out that the government is a monopoly that can never provide competitive products and services.

The VA should be privatized, and ObamaCide should be repealed.

faraway on May 29, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Lolz!!! Like 0 is actually smart enough to know how to knit!

Bmore on May 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Hey cats play with yarn too but nobody would accuse them of knitting.

The anatopism here is the idea that the king and queen would share the same bed. My guess is that it only happened twice.

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Firing people at the VA won’t help veterans get better care. It will help Obama deflect blame. It will help Obama to fire any conservatives working for the VA.

faraway on May 29, 2014 at 2:26 PM

So the director of the Phoenix VA hospital should keep her job? I’d say firing those who had thousands of veterans on “unofficial” wait lists does help veterans get better care. They aren’t dying while waiting for an appointment that will never come because some bureaucrat wants her performance bonus. I’m not much for vigilante protests but this is one of those cases where the families of those who died for performance bonuses should gather outside the homes of those responsible for those deaths.

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:35 PM

the proposed congressional solution — allowing any VA senior executive to be fired at will, with no due process and no protection for whistleblowers — is particularly appalling.

It shouldn’t just be senior executives who can be fired at will. All federal employees should be at-will, and they should have the same due process protections as any other at-will employees have.

A federal government job is not, and should not be treated as, an entitlement. The federal government should be like any other employer; it should be able to discipline, and if necessary, fire any employees who are either not performing their job duties competently or effectively, or whose jobs are no longer necessary.

Instead, as it currently stands, once you’re hired by the federal government, you have guaranteed employment for life — no matter how incompetent, corrupt, or criminal your on-the-job behavior is. It’s like a damn Supreme Court appointment. You can spend years watching porn at your desk, or drooling into a cup, and nobody can do anything to get rid of you.

AZCoyote on May 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Competency

Schadenfreude on May 29, 2014 at 2:42 PM

I have had my home phone number for 5 years.I get calls for a guy that uses my number all of the time.The calls are from credit card company’s,creditors,banks,etc etc.I did a simple Google search on him and he came up on the Texas Sex Offender site.He works at the VA.A convicted sex offender is one of the VA’s quality employees.One company that sells Viagra called wanting to know if he needed a refill.I said send it.

docflash on May 29, 2014 at 2:43 PM

So the director of the Phoenix VA hospital should keep her job? I’d say firing those who had thousands of veterans on “unofficial” wait lists does help veterans get better care. They aren’t dying while waiting for an appointment that will never come because some bureaucrat wants her performance bonus. I’m not much for vigilante protests but this is one of those cases where the families of those who died for performance bonuses should gather outside the homes of those responsible for those deaths.

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Let’s fire them first, then move on to prosecuting them. Many heads need to roll over this.

non-nonpartisan on May 29, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Richard M. Nixon

Watergate, First Address to the Nation About the Watergate Investigations
April 30, 1973

“…I first learned from news reports of the Watergate break-in.”

Sound familiar?

Kidfromjersey on May 29, 2014 at 2:50 PM

So the director of the Phoenix VA hospital should keep her job? I’d say firing those who had thousands of veterans on “unofficial” wait lists does help veterans get better care.

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:35 PM

They will be fired without this bill. Waitlists will not get shorter because of firing anyone. The VA is what needs to be fired.

faraway on May 29, 2014 at 2:55 PM

What these US Senate democrats SAY they will do today, they will “forget” to do tomorrow IF the US Senate remains in Democrat hands.

Keep your brain – get rid of opportunistic Democrats.

MN J on May 29, 2014 at 2:57 PM

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes that their leadership wanted to leave the issue with Bernie Sanders, who heads up the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Sanders, though, has been in almost continuous denial about the scope and depth of the issue at the VA ever since whistleblowers first emerged to reveal the fraud and deception.

Bernie Sanders: socialist, single-payer bitter clinger to the bitter end. Why, we can’t get to the bottom of this problem and help our veterans! We can’t even admit we have a problem! IF we do, it will make government-run healthcare look bad!!!!

I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that, every year, Bernie Sanders introduces legislation to convert the healthcare system in the US to a single-payer, government-run system. What an absolute shock it is that he would be in total denial over the fact that a government-run system could have major problems……..

djm1992 on May 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM

When you can predict how people in Congress will vote based on a point in the elections cycle- it’s time to find another representative.

And it shouldn’t be Democrat who has previously voted straight line with the president.

Marcus Traianus on May 29, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Obama to dead veterans and their families, “You’re welcome.”

jukin3 on May 29, 2014 at 3:10 PM

They argued that the leadership failure is not just a VA problem, but emblematic of the Obama administration — and then oddly included Congress, too:

Why, it’s almost like WaPos is identify themselves with the Obama administration, and are swearing, “We’re not going down for this alone! We’re taking Congress with us!!”

Crazy talk, right?

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 29, 2014 at 3:38 PM

This is exactly what I was trying to say earlier and got heat for it. I do think Shinseki is culpable, but I don’t want him to be removed and for the Media to say “Okay, all is well . “

sandee on May 29, 2014 at 3:46 PM

This is getting tiresome.
Nothing will change.

LeftCoastRight on May 29, 2014 at 2:04 PM

We haven’t moved into the Issa “get to the bottom of it” phase yet. Lots of news time to go.

BobMbx on May 29, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Blaming congress is a canard. The bureaucracy is in the executive branch.

eaglephin on May 29, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Instead, as it currently stands, once you’re hired by the federal government, you have guaranteed employment for life — no matter how incompetent, corrupt, or criminal your on-the-job behavior is. It’s like a damn Supreme Court appointment. You can spend years watching porn at your desk, or drooling into a cup, and nobody can do anything to get rid of you.

AZCoyote on May 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

I started my career at HUD, at age 23. I was a political appointee, but what I saw of the bureaucracy there was mostly appalling:

–More than a few raging alcoholics who were clearly drunk on the job.
–People taking 3 hour lunch breaks.
–Incorrigibly incompetent people who were simply given a desk with no work because the managers had given up trying to get them to do anything correctly.
–Head cases who were completely unmanageable
–Legions of people called “program analysts” who had offices with doors and windows and did absolutely nothing of importance, at all.

There were also numerous cases of political “burrowing” where previous Democrat political appointees got quickie appointments to protected civil service jobs, and then proceeded to do everything possible to undermine the new Republican Administration, leaked stuff to Congress and the media, etc. And I found a few civil servants who had been hired under a previous GOP administration who had been effectively de-jobbed when the next Democrat administration came in, because they didn’t trust them.

I had an IG complaint filed against me for the silliest thing imaginable. There were clearly civil servants who spent hours looking for ways to nail the political appointees, even the low level GS-9s like me.

It is my considered view that we do not need a protected civil service. I have no problem if a Denmocrat administration wants to clean house and hire all of its own peple. And the next Republican administration can do the same if it wants. Then the President has actual accountability when they screw up. if any administration goes totally patronage and hires too many incompetents and crooks because they are the right party or their daddies gave a lot of money to the campaign, they will screw up and get the President impeached.

rockmom on May 29, 2014 at 4:22 PM

So the director of the Phoenix VA hospital should keep her job? I’d say firing those who had thousands of veterans on “unofficial” wait lists does help veterans get better care. They aren’t dying while waiting for an appointment that will never come because some bureaucrat wants her performance bonus. I’m not much for vigilante protests but this is one of those cases where the families of those who died for performance bonuses should gather outside the homes of those responsible for those deaths.

Happy Nomad on May 29, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Let’s fire them first, then move on to prosecuting them. Many heads need to roll over this.

non-nonpartisan on May 29, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Let’s claw-back bonuses for a few years too, for administrators that allowed hidden waiting lists.

slickwillie2001 on May 29, 2014 at 4:25 PM

You can’t reform the Mafia.

The VA is an ongoing criminal enterprise. It needs to be abolished.

Veterans’ benefits should be handled in a different way. Put them all on federal employee insurance, but pay their deductibles and co-pays, and let them choose any doctor or hospital they want.

The VA was corrupt before it was the VA – the old “Veterans’ Bureau” was run the same way. It’s never changed and never will.

Tear it down and fire them all.

IRS, you’re next.

Adjoran on May 29, 2014 at 5:01 PM

I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that, every year, Bernie Sanders introduces legislation to convert the healthcare system in the US to a single-payer, government-run system. What an absolute shock it is that he would be in total denial over the fact that a government-run system could have major problems……..

djm1992 on May 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM

I don’t know about every year, but he did introduce such a bill in the current Congress. It’s called the American Health Security Act, S. 1782. But it doesn’t have any co-sponsors in the Senate and no action has been taken on it other than referring it to committee.

J.S.K. on May 29, 2014 at 6:21 PM

Upon further investigation, it looks like Sanders introduces a single-payer health care bill in 2009 and 2011 too. So he introduces it every two years.

J.S.K. on May 29, 2014 at 6:25 PM

“This legislation would bring basic accountability to the VA and ensure the people responsible for the gross negligence and mistreatment of our nation’s heroes are punished,” Rubio said in a statement.

I’ve no major problems with Rubio (a few problems, but none major), but he’s definitely a Beltway politician. How he can pretend that firing someone whose function in government led to the death, criminally delayed treatment, or simple neglect of military patients, can be called ‘punishment’ speaks volumes to the disconnect between Washington and the citizenry.

If the Veteran’s Affairs Secretary didn’t already have authority to oversee the personnel issues under his jurisdiction, then the bureaucracy there has always been broken. The insinuated instant tenure of a government job must be destroyed. Only a meritocracy can ensure quality.

Freelancer on May 30, 2014 at 12:08 PM

Testing..:)

Dire Straits on May 31, 2014 at 3:18 PM