Senate Democrats endorse inaction at the VA

The House passed a bipartisan bill this week that would allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs — whomever that might be — leeway to bypass some civil-service protections in order to fire people involved in manipulating and falsifying data and forcing veterans to wait for weeks and months for treatment. After dozens of veterans died in Phoenix waiting for medical assistance, the urgency of the situation is obvious, and the need for replacing those who hid behind strategies of fraud acute. Even with the horror stories and outrage multiplying, Senate Democrats have endorsed the status quo and inaction, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton:

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.”

Thank you, Captain Obvious. Yes, the solutions obviously have to be applied “administratively.” That’s exactly what the House bill allows. Perhaps Senator Schumer is confused because of his lack of experience in running anything but his Senate office, but hiring and firing are administrative tasks. Thanks to civil-service and other federal rules, executives are handicapped in their ability to clean house, even with scandals such as these in full view. The House bill — passed on a bipartisan basis — reduces those handicaps so that VA executives can act administratively to get better and more accountable managers and staffers in place.

In fact, Schumer might want to direct his non-sequitur to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Once again, Barack Obama has refused to act administratively, and the pattern of a lack of accountability at the White House for failure is once again on full display. Politico’s Edward-Issac Dovere says that it’s ObamaCare all over again, but this time with deaths:

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 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. …

But even Democrats have begun to ask: If this really is the Obama administration’s “year of action,” why wait for action on the VA?

As Shinseki himself began calling and meeting with Democrats on the Hill in an attempt to stave off damage, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), the ranking member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee who’s running for governor back home in November, sent a letter to Obama calling for an executive order to increase VA accountability.

“The president has expressed his outrage at the ongoing situation within the VA, and this is one opportunity for him to use his authority to put badly needed course corrections in place,” Michaud said in a statement about the letter.

You know what that would be? Acting administratively. And in this case, it would be unnecessary if Senate Democrats hadn’t decided to block efforts to do anything about the scandal at the VA only to make Obama look good in comparison. They seem to be satisfied with the status quo. Perhaps veterans ought to let these Senate Democrats know how they feel about it.

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