House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday slammed Washington's response to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, charging that "these are men and women who served our country — and we’ve not just let them down, we’ve let them die."
"The reports that continue to come are appalling," the Ohio Republican told reporters at his weekly news briefing
on Capitol Hill. "This is awful stuff, and someone ought to be held accountable for it."
The speaker praised the House's swift approval of the VA Accountability Act
on Wednesday, which gives the VA secretary the authority to remove senior executive service employees based on performance.
The bill passed on a 390-33 vote, with 162 Democrats breaking ranks to support the legislation with 228 Republicans.
"We all share the American people’s outrage about the horrors at the VA — outrage the president belatedly echoed yesterday," Boehner said, referring to President Barack Obama's vow
to hold any VA official accountable for delaying treatment for returning service members and to "fix whatever is wrong" with the agency.
"The White House keeps talking about its efforts to increase VA funding, but where’s the accountability?" the speaker asked.
He also attacked Senate Democrats for blocking the House-passed accountability bill. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio asked senators to bring up the legislation and pass it, but Democrats objected.
"As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I am disappointed, and – frankly – shocked that Senate Democratic leaders chose to block legislation that would hold VA managers accountable," Boehner said. "This bill is not the whole solution to the systemic problems plaguing the VA, but it is a crucial first step — and there is no substantive objection to it at all. None.
"As we head home to honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, it’s fair to ask why Senate Democrats won’t stand up for more accountability?"
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