Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) on Wednesday unloaded on the Obama administration for failing to come clean on the Veterans Affairs healthcare scandal, and accused VA officials of lying directly to members of Congress earlier this year.
Scott said he was in his home state of Georgia to discuss a wave of soldiers taking their own lives while in the hospital. He said he and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) asked if there were any others, and were told no.
“And they told a damn lie!” Scott bellowed in an emotional speech. “The very next day it was exposed there was another soldier that committed suicide, and they covered it up!”
Scott was speaking in support of a bill making it easier to fire VA officials, but said the firing needs to start with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
“The first person we need to fire is Secretary of Veterans Affairs Mr. Shinseki himself,” he said.
“Under his watch at my own hospital in Atlanta, four of our soldiers committed suicide in the hospital, and the very inspector general of the VA laid the blame directly at the foot of the VA administration for the lack of management.”
Scott also blasted President Barack Obama’s speech on Wednesday, in which Obama said he wants to wait for more reporting about problems at the VA before acting.
“I listened to the President today, and I was very disappointed with President Obama today,” he said. “There was no urgency. Mr. President, we need urgency, we need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals!”
The VA has admitted that delays in administering the healthcare delivery system for veterans has contributed to the deaths of more than 40 veterans, which Scott said is a failure to respect people who serve the country.
“Our soldiers have given their lives on the battlefield. We need to give our lives up here and give our veterans the respect that they deserve!”
Scott’s comments are in line with the criticism that many Republicans have leveled at both Shinseki and President Obama. GOP leaders in the House and Senate blasted Obama for failing to take any action today, and instead waiting for more reporting.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Obama of working much more quickly to save the Obamacare website than to save the lives of veterans.
Despite Scott’s speech, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke on the floor to argue against the bill, which would turn many senior officials into at-will employees that can be fired more quickly.
“If the allegations are true, heads ought to roll, period. But that’s not what this legislation is about,” said Hoyer, who often defends government employees. “This legislation is about a knee-jerk reaction to a bad situation painted with a very broad brush.”
Miller reacted to Hoyer’s comments by saying it’s not a knee-jerk reaction, but the only reaction so far. “If you don’t do your job, you get fired!” he said of the bill.