Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a quiet trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon amid the growing scandal engulfing veterans affairs hospitals across the country.
Shinseki and Hagel were on the Hill for a meeting with House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers and Ranking Member Nita Lowey, according to a committee spokeswoman, that was scheduled some time ago and was not related to the VA scandal. The meeting, she said, was about the veterans affairs and defense departments’ ongoing collaboration involving electronic medical records. Both departments have yet to create the digital system prescribed by Congress in 2008, which continues to create headaches on the Hill.
Representatives of the House Armed Services and House Veterans’ Affairs committees that they were unaware of Shinseki’s visit. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, who had said he wanted to look into scandal but has so far refrained from calling for Shinseki’s resignation, said it was the first he had heard of the veterans affairs secretary’s trip to the Hill.
The visit comes as a handful of congressional Republicans have called for Shinseki’s immediate resignation. The majority of members, including leadership, however, are withholding their judgment on the secretary’s employment until more information arises.
Shinseki has said he is “mad as hell” about long wait times and secret appointment lists at veterans’ hospitals. The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general is conducting an investigation into allegations of mismanagement at hospitals.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story referred to the secretaries’ trip to the Hill as a “surprise visit.” While the visit was in fact a surprise to members of the House Armed Services and House Veterans’ Affairs committees, it had been previously planned with leaders of the House Appropriations Committee.
What We're Following See More »
"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.