Hearing set for Obama's nominee to lead VA

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee next Tuesday will hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee to run the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Timing for panel and full Senate votes on Robert McDonald’s nomination depend “on how much time the Republicans make us eat, but the intention is to get it done in time before the August recess,” according to a committee source.

The Senate has three more weeks before it leaves Washington for the recess. The July 22 hearing would give them just over a week to confirm McDonald and get his nomination to the floor.

The confirmation hearing will take place at 2 p.m. Committee members were notified of the pending hearing earlier Tuesday afternoon, the source added.

“At a time when we have unacceptably long waiting times for VA health care and when some 500,000 veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, it is absolutely imperative that the VA move to provide quality care in a timely manner to all of our veterans,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the panel’s chairman, said in a statement. “We also must move aggressively to further reduce the claims backlog and veterans homelessness. I look forward to the hearing with Mr. McDonald and hope that his confirmation will give the VA the long-term leadership that it needs.”

Sanders said earlier Tuesday morning that he wanted to take up the nomination quickly because “it’s important that the VA has a permanent secretary as soon as possible.”

Sanders, who met with McDonald on July 8, has not voiced any reservations about the nomination.

The White House tapped McDonald, an Army veteran and retired Procter & Gamble chief executive, at the end of June. McDonald has been well-received by lawmakers in both parties.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking Republican on the panel, said he was “ready to take up his nomination and move it and certainly don’t see anything that should stand in its way.”

Burr is due to meet McDonald on Thursday.

McDonald would succeed former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned after investigations found the department had covered up long waits that veterans endured to receive care from the VA.

Obama tapped Sloan Gibson, who joined the agency three months earlier as Shinseki's deputy, to run the department until a permanent replacement is found.

In addition to meeting with panel members, McDonald has sat down with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who represents his home state, as well as several lawmakers who represent large veteran populations, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

He has also met with Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the chamber's No. 3 Democrat.