Senate panel unanimously approves VA secretary nominee

Senate panel unanimously approves VA secretary nominee
© Getty

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously approved David Shulkin to be Veterans Affairs secretary Tuesday.

Following a breezy hearing last week, the committee voted Tuesday to send Shulkin to the full Senate for what's expected to be an easy confirmation vote, given that he's received praise from Republicans, Democrats and veterans alike.

Shulkin, who has been the VA’s undersecretary of health since 2015, flatly pledged not to privatize the VA, while promising change despite the fact that he is an Obama administration holdover.

ADVERTISEMENT
“There should be no doubt that if confirmed as secretary, I will seek major reform and a transformation of VA,” Shulkin said in his opening statement to the committee last week. “There will be far greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options, but the Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.”

His answers pleased Democrats and veterans who had worried President Trump’s campaign talk of expanding veterans’ access to private healthcare would be a step toward privatization of the system.

They also found favor with Republicans who feel reform has come too slowly after the 2014 wait time scandal and other issues that have plagued the VA in recent years.

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations Senate leaders push tax debate into Friday Senate Ethics Committee opens 'preliminary inquiry' into Franken allegations MORE (R-Ga.), chairman of the committee, has said he expects Shulkin to be confirmed by the end of the week.

“As I stated in last week’s confirmation hearing, I believe Dr. David Shulkin is the right person to head up the VA,” Isakson said in a statement following the vote.
 
“His prior experience will prove indispensable when making the reforms necessary to the Veterans Choice Program and the appeals process, among other critical priorities. Today’s unanimous committee vote signals the broad, bipartisan support that I hope we can look forward to in his confirmation by the full Senate.”

“I look forward to working with Dr. Shulkin and will hold him accountable to the pledges he made during the confirmation process," ranking member Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank GOP defeats Schumer bid to delay tax vote MORE (D-Mont.) said in a statement.
 
"I believe Dr. Shulkin’s bipartisan support from the committee is indicative of the vote he’ll receive on the Senate floor, and I am calling on Senate leaders to confirm him in a timely fashion.”