Boehner 'closer' to demanding Shinseki resign from VA

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he was “getting closer” to demanding Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resign, and that he lacked confidence in an investigation of the department.

“I am not confident that the [inspector general] has either the interest or the capacity to get to the bottom of what is a systemic failure of an entire agency,” Boehner said at his weekly Capitol press conference.

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Lawmakers in both parties have voiced outrage at reports of lengthy waiting lists and preventable deaths in the VA’s healthcare system, and House Republicans have criticized the department’s response to subpoenas it has issued.

“It’s more than just waiting lists, and I think it’s important for us to understand the failure that’s gone on here,” Boehner said.

The Speaker has not joined other Republicans in calling for Shinseki’s resignation, but he acknowledged his patience was wearing thin.

“I have not called for General Shinseki to resign, although I have to admit I am getting closer to,” he said. “This isn’t about the secretary. It’s about the entire system underneath him.

“I don’t want people to get confused about what the shiny ball is,” he added. “The shiny ball is the systemic failure of this agency.”

The Speaker called on the Senate to pass a House bill that would make it easier for Shinseki to fire senior managers responsible for the department’s failures.

Growing emotional at one point, Boehner said the reported treatment of veterans who had served in wartime was  “appalling.”

“We’ve not just let them down. We’ve let them die,” he said. “This is awful stuff.”