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 Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats 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 HeinrichThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests 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 FrankenPolitical world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: 'Why wait until Biden is our only hope?' Democrats begin to confront Biden allegations MORE (Minn.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Tillis wins North Carolina Senate primary Coronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 MORE (N.C.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE (La.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyQAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane Manchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster MORE (Ore.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE (N.H.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump MORE (Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 MORE (N.M.), John Walsh (Mont.), and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown 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 SmithHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-Wash.), though, has refrained from calling for his resignation. 

Both Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT MORE (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Trump wants executive order on policing; silent on pending bills MORE (D-Nev.) both urged a solution to fix the roots of the problem. 

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT 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 PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 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 KlobucharDemocrats: A moment in history, use it wisely The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus 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 HagelHundreds of West Point alumni call out Esper over military's role in protests Can he really do that? Yes, he probably can — because Congress let him GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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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