Senate’s Turn as House Takes a Break

VA scandal, confirmations, and climate change top a busy agenda this week.

Chairman Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki during the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing that is focusing on wait times veterans face to get medical care May 15, 2014 in Washington, DC. The American Legion called Monday for the resignation of Shinseki amid reports by former and current VA employees that up to 40 patients may have died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
Add to Briefcase
Michael Catalini
June 1, 2014, 7:08 a.m.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned, but the VA scandal is still front and center.

With senators returning from a week off and the House out, lawmakers are wrestling with how to address the reports of secret waiting lists that resulted in delayed care and the deaths of veterans.

The Senate could take up a bill aimed at holding VA officials accountable, but which one and when is unclear, according to Senate aides.

Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont is holding a hearing Thursday, at which time more-sweeping legislation than the authorization measure that failed earlier this year could be considered.

The House has already passed a bill that seeks to make it easier to fire poorly performing VA officials, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Rubio’s bill has 25 cosponsors, with Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida the only Democrat on board.

Sanders has been working with the White House to draft a so-called accountability bill aimed at broadening the department’s personnel powers, an aide said. Whatever is worked out is likely to differ from the House version, however.

Sanders has also raised the idea of shortening VA wait times by letting vets go to military hospitals, private doctors, and community health centers.

“Clearly right now — short-term — we’ve gotta make sure that every veteran on waiting lists gets health care as quickly as possible,” Sanders said last week on CNN.

The Senate is also expected to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Health and Human Services secretary this week. Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on her nomination before the Senate left town. Though nominated to succeed Kathleen Sebelius, whose role in implementing the Affordable Care Act was a political lightning rod, Burwell has seen little controversy throughout her confirmation process.

On Monday, the Senate will vote on Keith M. Harper for the rank of ambassador during his tenure as U.S. representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Senate is also likely to vote on several other confirmations this week, including Sharon Bowen to be commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Mark Mastroianni to be a U.S. district judge in Massachusetts; Bruce Hendricks to be a U.S. district judge in South Carolina; and Tanya Chutkan to be U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will also continue markups this week, with the Transportation/Housing and Urban Development and the Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittees meeting Tuesday. A full committee markup of the CJS and THUD measures will take place Thursday.

Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and ranking member Richard Shelby are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the VA scandal.

“Veterans deserve better than delay and denial. The Senate CJS bill that we will recommend to the Appropriations Committee next week will provide the resources needed for criminal and civil investigations into allegations that the VA falsified patient records at centers and clinics across the country,” Mikulski and Shelby said in a letter.

Energy and Environment

Climate Crescendo

A day after the administration unveils landmark regulations to rein in carbon emissions from the nation’s fleet of power plants, Democrats on Capitol Hill plan to shine a spotlight of their own on climate change.

On Tuesday the Senate Environment and Public Works Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee will hold a hearing that looks at the impacts of global warming on farmers, fishermen, and foresters. The hearing features testimony from Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and will explore a variety of mitigation strategies that might aid impacted industries in the face of extreme weather events.

Later that day, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee takes up legislation introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon that would pave the way for dam removal in the Klamath River Basin, a stretch spanning Oregon and California. The bill has drawn praise from conservation groups as well as ranchers and farmers.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will evaluate efforts to shore up safety standards at nuclear power plants. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane will appear before the panel during the hearing. Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer of California and Macfarlane have previously clashed over the release of information related to the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

National Security

Intel Matters

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee will consider the intelligence budget in a closed session on Wednesday, with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifying.

On Tuesday, the Banking Committee will hold a markup of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. And on Thursday, the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the situation in Ukraine.

White House

Euro Tour

President Obama will spend the week in Europe, looking to the past by paying tribute to all that America did to help liberate the continent 70 years ago and looking to the future by offering reassurance to anxious allies that the United States will stand with them in any coming confrontations with an emboldened Russia.

The president will carry that message during four stops in three countries. Leaving Washington Monday evening, he will spend Tuesday and Wednesday in Warsaw, meeting with the leaders of Poland and other Eastern European countries. Wednesday night, he will arrive in Brussels for a meeting of the G-7 leaders. Thursday evening, he goes to Paris, and Friday he will join other allies at Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing.

Clare Foran and George E. Condon Jr. contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
HAD HEADED AGENCY SINCE OCTOBER
DEA Head Steps Down
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Acting DEA head Robert Patterson "told staff Monday he is retiring, saying that running the agency as a temporary fill-in had become 'increasingly challenging.'"

DOUBLING DOWN
White House Promises New Immigration Crackdown Before Midterms
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Top aides to President Donald Trump are planning additional crackdowns on immigration before the November midterms, despite a growing backlash over the administration’s move to separate migrant children from parents at the border. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and a team of officials from the Justice Department, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget have been quietly meeting for months to find ways to use executive authority and under-the-radar rule changes to strengthen hardline U.S. immigration policies."

Source:
COMEY SAYS HE RELEASED THEM AS A PRIVATE CITIZE
Justice Dept. IG Looking into Comey Leaking His Memos
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General is looking into former FBI Director James Comey’s decision to give his personal memos to a friend outside the government. 'We received a referral on that from the FBI. We are handling that referral and we will issue a report when the matter is completed,' Inspector General Michael Horowitz said during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing came days after Horowitz’s office released a near 600-page report on the FBI’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server." Comey has testified that he released the memos as "private citizen."

Source:
OFFERED TO SELL DIRT ON CLINTON FOR $2 MILLION
Roger Stone Says He Forgot About Meeting with Russian
14 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two longtime associates of President Donald Trump are now acknowledging a previously undisclosed contact in May 2016 with a Russian who they say offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Roger Stone and Michael Caputo say they forgot to tell investigators about their contact with a Russian national who goes by the name Henry Greenberg — even though they say Greenberg offered to sell incriminating information to the Trump campaign for $2 million."

Source:
MCCONNELL WANTS A TREATY
Senators Want to Rubber Stamp Any North Korean Deal
6 days ago
THE LATEST

"As Trump signed a joint statement with Kim Jong Un that offered few details on how the North Korean leader would make good on his vow to denuclearize, Republicans on Capitol Hill said Tuesday that they want and expect the White House to submit any final agreement for their approval." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for any agreement to be in the form of a treaty.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login