Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., vowed to block any Veterans Affairs secretary nominee who supports privatization of the V.A.
"I will do everything I can as a member of the Veterans Committee not to approve any nominee who is not going to strengthen the VA and who will [not] oppose privatization," Sanders told CNN's "State of the Union." Sanders has said he is against the Trump administration's "massive effort to privatize agencies of the United States government and give them over to private corporations."
Sanders' statement suggests President Donald Trump's nomination of Adm. Ronny Jackson as Veterans Affairs secretary will face stiff opposition in the Senate, which holds a slip 51-49 GOP majority.
"I have worked over the years with the American Legion, the VFW, and all of the veterans organizations, and without exception, the major veterans organizations say we have got to strengthen the VA – not dismember it, not privatize it," Sanders told host Jake Tapper.
Former VA Secretary David Shulkin, who maintained Sunday he "did not resign" while refusing to characterize his ouster as him being "fired," told Tapper politically motivated appointees from the Trump administration "used subversive techniques to change leadership at the VA."
"[Adm. Ronny Jackson] has no experience in this area, but I would strongly suspect that if you get rid of Shulkin, who opposed privatization, and you put Dr. Jackson, [privatization of the V.A.] is what his mission will be," Sanders told Tapper.
President Trump's removal of Shulkin was based on the slow "pace" of allowing veterans waiting for healthcare were not being permitted to seek healthcare from private doctors.
"I wasn't happy with the speed with which our veterans were taken care of," President Trump told an Ohio rally this week. "We made changes because we want them taken care of. We want them to have choice, so that they can run to a private doctor."
Sanders has long been a champion for a public, single-payer, American healthcare system, which some critics pointedly say might become littered with the same healthcare issues that have plagued the Veterans Administration for decades, leaving veterans to die while waiting for government-supplied care.
President Trump, campaigning to fix the scandal-plagued VA and long wait times for veterans care, has proffered reworking the V.A. to make it easier for veterans to get immediate healthcare outside of the V.A., but even Shulkin admitted this week Trump is "not being well served by all the people around him."
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