By Russell Berman - 05/08/14 12:43 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday declined to join Republicans in demanding the resignation of Veterans Affair Secretary Eric Shinseki, saying the problems at the VA are “systemic” and won’t be solved by a change at the top.
Three Senate Republicans, including second-ranking Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), have called on Shinseki to step down following new allegations of preventable deaths at a facility in Phoenix. So has the American Legion.
“I’m not ready to join the chorus of people calling for him to step down,” Boehner said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “The problems at the VA are systemic. It’s the backlog. It’s the preventable deaths that have occurred within their system.
“There’s a systemic management issue throughout the VA that needs to be addressed,” Boehner said, “and I don’t believe that just changing someone at the top is going to actually get to the solutions that many of us are looking for.”
Boehner has pushed legislation that would actually strengthen Shinseki’s hand by making it easier to remove civil servants who have demonstrated incompetence. But the VA opposes the bill on the grounds it would remove needed labor protections.
Shinseki has rebuffed calls for his resignation, and the White House has said President Obama retains confidence in his leadership.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday voted to subpoena Shinseki as well as department emails about the response to reports that veterans had died awaiting care at VA hospitals.