Trump's VA pick pledges opposition to privatization, senator says

Trump's VA pick pledges opposition to privatization, senator says
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) told a Democratic senator on Tuesday he opposes efforts to privatize veterans health care.

White House physician Ronny Jackson is visiting with Republican and Democratic senators this week ahead of his April 25 confirmation hearing.

Trump’s decision to oust VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinTrump loyalists purge VA of longtime staffers who don’t support agenda: report Poll: Majority in some GOP districts say Republicans 'more corrupt' than Dems On paper, Wilkie is the perfect candidate for VA secretary, but his qualifications go further MORE late last month and replace him with Jackson stoked speculation that the White House wants to allow veterans more access to private-sector health-care providers.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee On The Money: Trump rips Fed over rate hikes | Dems fume as consumer agency pick refuses to discuss border policy | Senate panel clears Trump IRS nominee MORE (Mont.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said Jackson pledged during a one-on-one meeting that he is against privatization.

“He said all the right things, seems to have the same position on privatization that Shulkin had,” Tester told reporters. “He answered the questions right on privatization.”

Political tensions about privatization could complicate the confirmation process. 

Shulkin blamed his ouster on forces within the administration that he said are pushing hard for privatization.

Tester, who faces a tough November reelection battle in a state Trump won in 2016, said he wants Jackson to tell his views to Trump, but Jackson has yet to have that conversation.

“I said you need to do that, and then come back and tell me what the president says about you,” Tester said.

Jackson is an active-duty Navy admiral who has been the physician to the president since 2013. Lawmakers have also expressed skepticism over whether Jackson, who doesn’t have experience working with the VA or managing a health-care organization, has the qualifications to run the agency.

“Look, he’s got some issues with management, he hasn’t really overseen a large group, so we’ll sort through that,” Tester said, adding that he won’t commit to opposing or supporting Jackson yet.

“We’re still at the beginning of the vetting process,” Tester said.