Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) blasted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Democratic lawmakers who blocked his bill to increase accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs in a Fox News interview Thursday, calling it "outrageous."
Rubio asked for unanimous consent Thursday to take up and pass the Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, which would make it easier for the department to fire unsatisfactory employees. The House passed the measure overwhelmingly, 390-33, with only Democrats voting in the negative. But Sanders objected, saying he wanted to have a hearing first.
"I just don't understand that," Rubio said. "It's a very simple bill. All it says is that the secretary or any future secretary appointed by this president, a Democratic president, can fire executives in the VA who aren't doing their jobs. Right now he can't do that. And they blocked it. So, unfortunately, members of Congress will head home for Memorial Day and veterans will keep waiting for accountability and that's outrageous."
Rubio said Democrats organized the block and came up with "excuses" in order to delay the bill, adding he tried to make it as narrow and simple as possible in order to limit any objections to it.
"We could have sent this bill to the president, and next week when the preliminary investigation returns, Shinseki could have started firing people that weren't doing their jobs," Rubio said. "Instead, we'll have a hearing in June, according to the chairman. Just unacceptable."
The Free Beacon reported earlier:
Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has been one of the most outspoken defenders of the VA against allegations of misconduct. When asked about reports of multiple deaths related to long wait times at the VA healthcare system, Sanders told CNN: "People die every day."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on Thursday offered a lukewarm assessment of the House-passed legislation, describing it as "not unreasonable."
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was not happy. "As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I am disappointed, and—frankly—shocked that Senate Democratic leaders chose to block legislation that would hold VA managers accountable," Boehner said in a statement. "As we head home to honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, it’s fair to ask why Senate Democrats won’t stand up for more accountability?"