New faces for VA panel

Senate Democrats and Republicans have announced who will lead the panel tasked with overseeing the Veterans Affairs Department as it emerges from one of the worst scandals in its history.

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonSchumer makes plea for voting bill, filibuster reform in rare Friday session Jan. 6 brings Democrats, Cheneys together — with GOP mostly absent Pelosi leads moment of silence for Jan. 6 with no Republicans except Cheneys MORE (R-Ga.) will chair the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the 114th Congress, Senate Republicans announced Monday.

On Friday, Democrats said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) would serve as the panel’s ranking member.

Current VA Chairman Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats call on Biden to step up virus response We are America's independent contractors, and we are terrified Overnight Health Care — Biden's Supreme Court setback MORE (I-Vt.) is due to become the ranking member on the Budget Committee next year, while the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrPublic health expert: Biden administration needs to have agencies on the 'same page' about COVID Top Biden adviser expresses support for ban on congressional stock trades Biden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee MORE (N.C.), is leaving to helm the Intelligence Committee.

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The panel’s new leadership will play a critical role as the VA works to move past a political scandal over patient wait times. The furor raised questions about the Obama administration’s competency and led to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May.

In response, lawmakers almost unanimously approved a more than $16 billion overhaul of the agency, including $10 billion for veterans to seek medical care at non-VA providers under certain circumstances.

That effort began in earnest last month.

Republican lawmakers have chastised new VA Secretary Robert McDonald for not moving fast enough to use new powers granted through the revamp. Those powers would allow McDonald to fire managers connected to the scandal.

The committee will feature an expanded GOP roster, including incoming lawmakers Bill Cassidy (La.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

Sullivan is a Marine Corps veteran.

Two Democrats currently serving on the panel will be gone when the new Congress is sworn in: Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska) lost his reelection bid and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) retired.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is due to join the panel next year, Democrats said last week.