WASHINGTON — The top Republican and Democrat in the House aren’t ready to join other members of Congress who say Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign.
House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday that he’s reserving judgment about the embattled secretary. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she has great respect for Shinseki and firing him would reward those who misled him.
Even if Shinseki were to step down, that wouldn’t get to the bottom of the problems for the VA’s troubled health care system, said Boehner, R-Ohio.
“The real issue here is that the president is the one who should be held accountable,” Boehner said.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said that it’s “easy” for politicians to call for the resignation of a top leader such as Shinseki, but asked, “Is it a solution?”
The comments by the two House leaders came as another Democratic senator, Virginia’s Mark Warner, called for Shinseki to step aside. Warner is the sixth Senate Democrat to call for Shinseki’s resignation since Wednesday, when the VA’s inspector general reported he has found systemic problems at the VA nationwide. All are facing tough election campaign this fall.
The report said about 1,700 veterans in need of care were “at risk of being lost or forgotten” after being kept off the official waiting list at the Phoenix VA hospital. Veterans on the list waited an average of 115 days for a first appointment — nearly five times longer than the average the hospital had reported to the national VA, the report said.
Warner said in a statement Thursday that Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general, “has served our country with distinction,” but added: “I now believe he should step aside in order to allow our focus and our efforts to be on making the critically needed changes to fix the VA. “
A spokesman said President Barack Obama considers the IG’s findings “extremely troubling.” Pelosi called the action recounted in the report “shameful” and “unacceptable.”