The House Democratic leadership split in support for a measure that would give the Veterans Affairs Secretary authority to fire senior executives.
Anything apart from near unison is rare for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants.
Hoyer, who represents thousands of federal workers, said the measure would potentially undermine the civil service system.
"If the allegations are true, heads ought to roll. That's not what this legislation is about," Hoyer said. "This legislation is about a knee-jerk reaction to a broad situation.
"I cannot support this bill as written,” Hoyer continued. “I believe it opens the door to undoing the careful civil service protections that have been in place for decades.”
Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), the top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is a candidate for governor. During floor debate, he agreed with some of the other Democrats' concerns but said the bill should still move on to the Senate.
"This bill does not address the problem systematically within the VA," Michaud said. But, he added "we must move forward to deal with this issue."
No Republicans voted against the bill.