Pressure builds on Shinseki to resign

Pressure builds on Shinseki to resign
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Pressure built on Tuesday for Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiHouse approves VA bill, sending it to Trump Senate backs bill making it easier to fire VA employees Shulkin confirmed to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs MORE to resign, with more outraged lawmakers calling for his head over charges his agency tried to cover up long wait times for VA appointments that resulted in deaths.

Three Republican senators called on Shinseki to resign, including Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump launches all-out assault on Mueller probe Senators who have felt McCain's wrath talk of their respect for him Senate heads to new healthcare vote with no clear plan MORE (R-Texas), while Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerSudan sanctions spur intense lobbying OPINION | GOP's 7-year ObamaCare blood oath ends in failure A simple fix to encourage bipartisanship in the House MORE (R-Ohio) in a release heavily criticized the secretary for problems at the VA.

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“The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve,” Cornyn said in his statement.

Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranThe Memo: Trump tries to bend Congress to his will Tensions linger between Trump and GOP lawmakers Trump plays hardball on ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Kan.), a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sen. Richard BurrRichard BurrDems slam Trump for 'stonewalling' oversight efforts Burr: Nunes 'created' unmasking allegations against Rice Susan Rice met with Senate Intelligence Committee as part of Russia probe MORE (R-N.C.), the VA committee’s ranking member, also called for Shinseki’s resignation. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails Parliamentarian deals setback to GOP repeal bill OPINION | How Democrats stole the nation's lower federal courts MORE (R-Ky.) appeared to support calls for Shinseki’s resignation.

“A change in leadership might be a good step in the right direction,” he said. 

This is far from the first time there have been calls for Shinseki’s resignation, who has come under repeated criticism for not doing enough to cut down on long wait times at VA facilities.

But it’s clear he now faces the biggest challenge to his tenure.

The new calls for his head came after allegations surfaced this week that clerks at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., were instructed last year to falsify appointment records so it appeared that the doctors were meeting the VA’s goals of seeing patients within 14 days. 

The revelation followed other allegations that surfaced last month that a VA clinic in Phoenix had placed some veterans on a secret wait list, also in order to obscure long appointment wait times — which a whistleblower said resulted in the deaths of more than 40 veterans. 

The VA has placed the Phoenix clinic administrator on leave and is conducting investigations into both cases. 

The allegations led the American Legion to call for Shinseki to resign. Another veterans group, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, did not call for resignations but said Congress should probe the matter.

The White House defended Shinseki on Thursday.

“The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. 

Separately, White House spokesman Shin Inouye in a statement noted that President Obama had directed Shinseki to investigate allegations surrounding the Phoenix facility. The statement noted that Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General to conduct a review.

Several lawmakers have stopped short of calling for Shinseki’s resignation in a sign he might survive the battle.

“I do know he is a fine man, but you got to be accountable, so we’ll see,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamBusiness pressure ramps up against Trump's Ex-Im nominee Senators who have felt McCain's wrath talk of their respect for him McCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty MORE (R-S.C.). “He seems to be playing catch up, when it comes to day-to-day healthcare. … He’s going to have to up his game, that’s for sure.”

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainManchin bashes GOP candidate for pushing McCain to resign McCain’s primary challenger asks him to step aside after diagnosis Sen. McCain goes on hike after cancer diagnosis MORE (R-Ariz.) also stopped short of calling for Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general who was wounded while serving in Vietnam, to step down.  

“No, I think we need to complete the investigation. I’m obviously very unhappy, and the investigation needs to go on, but let us get through this investigation,” he said.