Senate Blocks Bill to Ease VA Firings

Thursday, 22 May 2014 11:04 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A Republican attempt to pass a bill making it easier to fire Veterans Affairs officials responsible for an allegedly deadly delay in care to sick vets was blocked in the Senate Thursday.

Florida Repubican Sen. Marco Rubio pleaded for quick approval of the House measure passed Wednesday so it could be sent to the president before the Memorial Day recess, The Blaze reported.

But Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed on the brakes.

"Some of us are old-fashioned enough to know that maybe folks in the Senate might want to know what is in the bill before we voted on it," he said.

"I do not want to see an enormous amount of paperwork and obstruction go forward before we can get rid of incompetent people. But before we vote on legislation, it might be a good idea to understand the full implications of that legislation."

Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said he'd hold a hearing on the bill when the Senate returns in late June.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the House bill was "not unreasonable," but would wait for Sanders to plot its course, adding: "I don't think we should wait around for a long time," the Washington Times reported.

House Speaker John Boehner was incensed.

"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, which passed the House with strong support from both parties," he said, The Blaze reported.

"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?"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also was annoyed at the political blockade, according to the Times.

"I was surprised to see Senate Democrats block this important, bipartisan bill. There's no reason for us not to pass it quickly here in the Senate. And the President should call for its passage right away too," the Kentucky Republican complained.

Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller said "given the VA's continued pattern of stonewalling, there is good cause" for quick passage.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin said firing Shinseki wouldn't solve the VA's problems.

"It is easy to point fingers of blame and say if one person goes, that will solve the problem. It is more than that," he said, the Times reported. "It is an overwhelming challenge to a system, but a promise that we've made that it is going to work."

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