Pressure builds on Shinseki to resign

Pressure builds on Shinseki to resign
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Pressure built on Tuesday for Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiHouse approves VA bill, sending it to Trump Senate backs bill making it easier to fire VA employees Shulkin confirmed to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs MORE to resign, with more outraged lawmakers calling for his head over charges his agency tried to cover up long wait times for VA appointments that resulted in deaths.

Three Republican senators called on Shinseki to resign, including Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynNew GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Week ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets GOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts MORE (R-Texas), while Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerSpeculation mounts, but Ryan’s job seen as safe Boehner warns Trump: Don't pull out of Korea-US trade deal GOP Rep: Ryan wasting taxpayers dollars by blocking war authorization debate MORE (R-Ohio) in a release heavily criticized the secretary for problems at the VA.

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“The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve,” Cornyn said in his statement.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill Campaign video touts apprenticeships making Trump commemorative coins Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats MORE (R-Kan.), a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program Facebook under fire over Russian ads in election 5 senators call for US to shutter embassy in Havana MORE (R-N.C.), the VA committee’s ranking member, also called for Shinseki’s resignation. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.) appeared to support calls for Shinseki’s resignation.

“A change in leadership might be a good step in the right direction,” he said. 

This is far from the first time there have been calls for Shinseki’s resignation, who has come under repeated criticism for not doing enough to cut down on long wait times at VA facilities.

But it’s clear he now faces the biggest challenge to his tenure.

The new calls for his head came after allegations surfaced this week that clerks at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., were instructed last year to falsify appointment records so it appeared that the doctors were meeting the VA’s goals of seeing patients within 14 days. 

The revelation followed other allegations that surfaced last month that a VA clinic in Phoenix had placed some veterans on a secret wait list, also in order to obscure long appointment wait times — which a whistleblower said resulted in the deaths of more than 40 veterans. 

The VA has placed the Phoenix clinic administrator on leave and is conducting investigations into both cases. 

The allegations led the American Legion to call for Shinseki to resign. Another veterans group, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, did not call for resignations but said Congress should probe the matter.

The White House defended Shinseki on Thursday.

“The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. 

Separately, White House spokesman Shin Inouye in a statement noted that President Obama had directed Shinseki to investigate allegations surrounding the Phoenix facility. The statement noted that Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General to conduct a review.

Several lawmakers have stopped short of calling for Shinseki’s resignation in a sign he might survive the battle.

“I do know he is a fine man, but you got to be accountable, so we’ll see,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTop Louisiana health official rips Cassidy over ObamaCare repeal bill Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-S.C.). “He seems to be playing catch up, when it comes to day-to-day healthcare. … He’s going to have to up his game, that’s for sure.”

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate's defense authorization would set cyber doctrine Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-Ariz.) also stopped short of calling for Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general who was wounded while serving in Vietnam, to step down.  

“No, I think we need to complete the investigation. I’m obviously very unhappy, and the investigation needs to go on, but let us get through this investigation,” he said.