OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Briefing on Bergdahl

The Topline: Obama administration officials Wednesday briefed senators in a bid to quell criticism over the prisoner swap that freed five Taliban commanders in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Lawmakers from both parties have been up in arms over the swap, arguing that Congress should have been notified in advance of and questioning if the released Taliban now pose a threat to U.S. national security.

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Yet it remains to be seen if the classified briefing will change anyone’s mind.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Republicans would consider impeachment proceedings if President Obama transfers any more detainees from the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) charged Republicans with hypocrisy, saying they spent five urging the administration to do everything it could to free Bergdahl.

VA overhaul endgame? Senior lawmakers met throughout Wednesday on a possible compromise bill to revamp the Veterans Affairs Department’s troubled healthcare system.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cancelled the panel’s Thursday hearing intended to unveil his overhaul bill to allow more time for negotiations with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who rolled out a GOP-backed accountability measure on Tuesday.

Sanders also met with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), his House counterpart. Miller told reporters that Sanders’ legislation as it stands now “would be very difficult to pass” in the House.

Miller said certain “stumbling blocks” remain between the two parties, including provisions that would allow agency employees to appeal their dismissal and how much access veterans would have to non-VA providers.

All three lawmakers said they wanted to strike a deal “as soon as possible.”

VA chief speculation. The White House reportedly approached Cleveland Clinic chief executive Delos “Toby” Cosgrove to be the new head of the Veterans Affairs Department.

No decision has been made but picking Cosgrove, a heart surgeon and Vietnam War veteran with a Bronze Star, could go a long way to easing congressional anger caused by the agency’s flailing medical network.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson announced he had contacted all 1,700 veterans left off the official patient waiting list at an agency hospital in Phoenix and that he would travel to the site on Thursday.

House Veterans Affairs Chairman Miller said the next VA chief should “roll up their sleeves and get out into the field and not just take what his lieutenants tell him as fact.”

Meanwhile, House Republican leaders fired off a letter to President Obama asking him to offer his vision for reforming the embattled agency and urged him to “rethink the entire system.”

In Case You Missed It:

-Senate Intel moves first on NSA reform

-Paul has warning for released detainees

-Bill would allow veterans to sue VA

-GOP governors to Obama: VA demands ‘immediate’ attention

-White House to Germany: Talk to us about spying

 

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