OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senators stand up against Shinseki

THE TOPLINE: A slew of Democratic senators called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiShulkin confirmed to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs Dems to Trump: Exclude VA from hiring freeze Dems, GOP battle over pace of Trump confirmations MORE to resign on Thursday, a day after the VA's inspector general issued a report confirming inappropriate scheduling practices. 

Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineDemocrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Kaine, Schiff press Trump on legal justification for Syria strike MORE (D-Va.) became the 11th Democratic senator to call for Shinseki's ouster in a wave of calls that began flooding in after the report was released on Wednesday. 

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Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichOvernight Finance: Dems explore lawsuit against Trump | Full-court press for Trump tax plan | Clock ticks down to spending deadline Dems hammer Trump for 'broken promises' in first 100 days The outdoor recreation economy is a force that is here to stay MORE (D-N.M.) became the first Democratic senator not up for reelection this fall to call for Shinseki's resignation, signaling that it has gone further than a campaign issue between Democrats and Republicans. 

Most of the Democratic senators issuing calls for Shinseki to step down face competitive races this November. 

Other than Heinrich and Kaine, those calling for Shinseki to resign include Sens. Al FrankenAl FrankenWhat killing net neutrality means for the internet Overnight Tech: Net neutrality fight descends into trench warfare | Zuckerberg visits Ford factory | Verizon shines light on cyber espionage Franken, top Dems blast FCC over net neutrality proposal MORE (Minn.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (La.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy: Trump set to sign offshore drilling order Sanders: Trump couldn't be 'more wrong' on climate Overnight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ MORE (Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Cybersecurity: Anticipation builds for Trump cyber order | House panel refers Clinton IT contractor for prosecution | Pentagon warned Flynn about foreign payments Dem senator fears Russian election interference could be ‘normalized’ Russian interference looms over European elections MORE (N.H.), Mark UdallMark UdallPicking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' Election autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed MORE (Colo.), Tom UdallTom UdallIT modernization bill reintroduced in Congress Overnight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ Dem vows to fight Trump 'every step of the way' on national monuments MORE (N.M.), John Walsh (Mont.), and Mark WarnerMark WarnerIT modernization bill reintroduced in Congress Want to grow the economy? Make student loan repayment assistance tax-free. Overnight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing MORE (Va.).

According to a list compiled by Military Times' Leo Shane, by Thursday evening, at least 63 House Republicans and 13 Senate Republicans are calling for Shinseki to resign. 

So far, 21 House Democrats have called for Shinseki's ouster. House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam SmithAdam SmithPentagon starts review of nuclear posture ordered by Trump Overnight Cybersecurity: Rice denies wrongly unmasking Trump team | Dems plead for electric grid cyber funds | China reportedly targeting cloud providers Lawmakers introduce bill to end warrantless phone searches at border MORE (D-Wash.), though, has refrained from calling for his resignation. 

Both Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) both urged a solution to fix the roots of the problem. 

BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE shifted blame to the White House: "The real issue here is that the president is the one who should be held accountable,” he said.

The White House only issued tepid support of Shinseki, with press secretary Jay Carney saying the president believed he "performed overall well," and "put his heart and soul" into providing care for veterans. But he emphasized the president was still waiting for the results of an internal investigation. 

SENATE DEMS TARGETED: In the midst of the Shinseki storm, a veterans group announced it would launch an ad campaign against five Senate Democrats in tight reelection races.

Concerned Veterans For America’s “Walk the Walk” campaign will take to the airwaves against Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) to pressure them to back the 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, which passed the full House 390-33 last week.

That measure would make it easier for the VA secretary to fire underperforming officials.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDem labels infrastructure ‘top thing’ Trump can accomplish Wyden pushing to mandate 'basic cybersecurity' for Senate Senators press the FCC on rural broadband affordability MORE (D-Minn), Hagan, Landrieu, Shaheen, Pryor and Warner have all backed a bill being floated by Sen. Mark Rubio (R-Fla.) that would grant the secretary of Veterans Affairs, be it Shinseki or his successor, greater power to fire VA managers found to be incompetent for offenses such as mismanagement and sexual harassment. 

HAGEL BEEFS UP REVIEW: Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelLobbying World The US just attacked Syria. So where's Congress? Senators tear into Marines on nude photo scandal MORE has upped the priority and speed of a review of the Pentagon's military health system, as the Department of Veterans Affairs comes under increasing fire for delays in care.

Hagel announced the 90-day review earlier this week and on Thursday morning he assigned the Pentagon's No. 2 — Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work — to lead it.

Previously, the review was going to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson, but the issue was given greater priority following the interim release of a VA inspector general report that confirmed that officials tried to hide long wait times for primary care appointments.

Hagel is also requesting regular updates on the review, and said he expects the first update and an action plan by June 6. The review will focus on access to healthcare, safety of care, and quality of care.

He has requested a final report to be delivered to him no later than Aug. 29.

"To the degree we learn about issues affecting the healthcare of our military health beneficiaries, including active duty service members, retirees, and their eligible family members, we will address them," Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

HOUSE APPROPRIATORS MAKE OPENING BID. The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee revealed its draft of a $491 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal year 2015.

Lawmakers also included a $79.4 billion placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which fund ongoing war efforts in Afghanistan. However, since the White House has not submitted an OCO request to Congress that figure is likely to change.

The proposed legislation, which will be taken up behind closed doors on Friday, mirrors the authorization measure adopted by the full House last week, in that it nixes many of the cost-cutting ideas put forward by the Obama administration.

For instance, the preliminary bill provides $789 million to refuel the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, a vessel the Pentagon wanted to mothball early. It also contains $128.1 billion for personnel costs, including a 1.8 percent pay raise for troops rather than the 1 percent hike proposed by the White House.

It also restores $100 million cut to commissary subsidies approved last week by the full chamber in the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill.

The bill would also bar the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and prevents the refurbishment of U.S.-based facilities for the purpose of holding terror suspects.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

-Snowden email fell short of NSA criticism

-Advocates call for spy court changes

-Plame: CIA outing ‘colossally stupid’

-VA warned not to ignore other programs while fixing claims backlog

-Hagel to decide ‘fairly soon’ about detainees

 

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