Speaker John Boehner is not yet joining the growing chorus calling for Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation. “I’m going to continue to reserve judgment on Gen. Shinseki,” the speaker said at a Thursday morning press conference. “Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find out what’s really going on?” the speaker asked. “The answer I keep getting is no.”
Boehner on Thursday shifted the blame to President Obama who, he said, ignored earlier reports from the Government Accountability Office about issues at Veterans Affairs.
Boehner has been relatively cautious about Shinseki’s job security, even as many of his colleagues — including his own majority whip — have called on the secretary to step down. Last week, Boehner said he was moving “closer” to calling for Shinseki’s resignation, and after the inspector general’s preliminary report was released yesterday, the speaker’s office said his position was unchanged.
But a huge wave of statements from members of both parties calling for a change of leadership at the VA have helped create a sense of momentum. On Wednesday, after the initial IG report found that veterans waited on average 115 days for care in the Phoenix health care system (as opposed to the recommended 14 days), Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and John Walsh, among many others, said Shinseki should step down. More than a dozen Democrats in both chambers have now called for Shinseki’s resignation. Mitt Romney, in an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday night, joined those calls.
For his part, Secretary Eric Shinseki wrote an op-ed on Thursday morning in USA Today calling the IG’s findings “reprehensible to me and to this department,” and saying he is “committed to providing the high-quality care and benefits that veterans have earned and deserved.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Obama was pleased with Shinseki’s announcement that he would abide by the IG’s recommendations. But a senior administration official added that a decision on Shinseki’s continued employment in the administration was pending on the final results of the IG’s investigation.