OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senators stand up against Shinseki

THE TOPLINE: A slew of Democratic senators called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiVA might not be able to end veteran homelessness, but we shouldn't stop trying Bill HR 2333 is a good step to helping curb veteran suicide  Senate confirms Trump's VA pick despite opposition from some Dems MORE to resign on Thursday, a day after the VA's inspector general issued a report confirming inappropriate scheduling practices. 

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Senators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising 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 Trevor HeinrichSenate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars 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 FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show MORE (Minn.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote Former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan dies at 66 MORE (N.C.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (La.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency's relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan Senate committee advances budget reform plan MORE (Ore.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Overnight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring MORE (N.H.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallBureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Hillicon Valley: Twitter to refuse all political ads | Trump camp blasts 'very dumb' decision | Ocasio-Cortez hails move | Zuckerberg doubles down on Facebook's ad policies | GOP senator blocks sweeping election reform bill MORE (N.M.), John Walsh (Mont.), and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Google sparks new privacy fears over health care data 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 SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithJudd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 'Marketplace of ideas' turns 100 — it's not what it used to be Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony MORE (D-Wash.), though, has refrained from calling for his resignation. 

Both Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Bottom Line Lobbying world MORE (D-Nev.) both urged a solution to fix the roots of the problem. 

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush 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 Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation 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 Jean KlobucharNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Election 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy 2020 Democrats demand action on guns after Santa Clarita shooting 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 HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelAlmost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel White House aide moves to lobbying firm 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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