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 TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' 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 ShulkinVeterans group sues to block advisers known as ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd’ from influencing VA Mar-a-Lago insiders provided input on VA policy, personnel decisions: report Ahead of speech, Kansas City newspaper urges Trump to listen to veterans 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) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA 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.