Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal blocked a rush vote Tuesday in the Senate to pass accountability legislation allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary to fire employees at-will.
The rush vote came a day after GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio published an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times arguing that accountability legislation is needed now more than ever because of desperate negligence, misconduct and dismal performance at the VA.
Rubio pointed out that it’s so difficult to get rid of bad eggs that an employee was able to take a veteran to a crack house, steal his check, collect overtime and buy drugs for the vet. A year later, the employee was still on board with the VA. Additionally, investigators recently found that 307,000 veterans died while waiting for health care application processing. The VA knew about the problem since at least 2010. Nothing was done, and no one was held accountable.
But none of Rubio’s arguments held water with Blumenthal, who quickly blocked the up-or-down vote by killing a motion for unanimous consent, which put an end to the attempt. Blumenthal has previously proposed his own version of accountability legislation.
Republicans passed the House version of the bill in late July by a vote of 256-170, a move which was quickly followed up by a veto threat from the White House. (RELATED: House Republicans Pass Bill To Expedite Firing Of VA Employees)
In effect, the bill allows for VA Secretary Robert McDonald to expedite the firing of employees for misconduct or poor performance. If appealed, the Merit Systems Protection Board would have only 45 days to issue a decision on the matter.
VA officials have stated that the VA Accountability Act would reduce the department’s ability to retain top-notch talent. Earlier Tuesday, the American Federation of Government Employees became aware of the rush vote and urged supporters to call senators and ask them to vote no, saying that the legislation represented a “sad excuse for accountability at the VA” as it would take away workers’ rights and set a bad precedent for other government agencies.
Concerned Veterans for America wasn’t pleased. CEO Pete Hegseth accused Blumenthal of pandering to special interests.
“CVA is disappointed that Senator Blumenthal, by today blocking a vote on the bipartisan VA Accountability Act, chose to stand with Washington special interests and corrupt VA bureaucrats instead of veterans who are suffering due to the lack of accountability within the VA,” Hegseth said. “Almost every day, there is a new story of VA employees engaging in misconduct or corruption — demonstrating that a year and a half after the wait list scandal began and after promises of change from the Obama Administration and Congress, a toxic culture still infects the VA. Clearly, much more needs to be done to fix this troubled agency.”