The House passed a measure aimed at allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire or demote incompetent VA workers, but the White House is threatening to veto it.
The VA Accountability Act of 2015 passed Tuesday largely along party lines by a vote of 256-170, however, it did have some Democratic support, The Washington Post is reporting.
The bill was authored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller. The Florida Republican said that it will allow the VA secretary "to remove or demote any employee for poor performance or misconduct."
However, prior to the vote, the White House released a statement saying that it would veto the measure if it makes it to President Barack Obama's desk, the Military Times reported.
"The bill could have a significant impact on the VA's ability to retain and recruit qualified professionals and may result in a loss of qualified and capable staff to other government agencies or the private sector," the statement said.
The Republicans think the bill is necessary because there has not been an increase in firings after the scandal that hit, in which VA patients allegedly died while their names were put on fake wait lists.
During debates on the measure, which had no support from Democrats on the House VA committee, the Post says that Miller pointed out several times that Obama and the Democrats supported similar rules that allowed only VA senior officials to be fired in the last VA reform bill, which the president signed in 2014.
Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, told the Post that "We are amazed that this bill, which mirrors last year's Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, is only now causing alarm within the Administration."
"In fact, the 2014 Act is a more draconian version of HR 1994 [the number of the bill approved Wednesday]," Bonosaro said. "Yet the Administration had no issue then with whether the new legal removal authority and process affected the due process rights of career Senior Executives, who are not in any bargaining unit and therefore are not represented by unions."
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a speech Tuesday
that despite attempts to make changes at the VA, the federal agency is still "dysfunctional" and needs to be "fundamentally turned on its head."
"We've done everything we could to change it," McCarthy said. "We've changed the secretary, we've changed the rules, we've given them a tremendous amount more money and the wait times are even longer."
But he said that one of the biggest problems at the VA is "you can't get rid of anybody," adding that "one person has been fired in this process about that wait time, [but] she didn't get fired because she didn't do the wait time right. She did something illegal somewhere else. They couldn't even fire her for the incompetence."
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