Democratic-Majority Senate 'Pretty Silent' on Veteran Concerns

On the May 22 edition of The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, the MSNBC anchor invited Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, to discuss his organization’s reaction to the Obama’s administrations handling of the VA scandal.

While Todd seemed content to place the blame solely on the faceless VA bureaucracy, Rieckhoff hit back by suggesting the problem is exacerbated by a president who doesn’t fire incompetent or negligent administration officials quickly enough. [See transcript below page break. Video below. Click here for MP3]

When Todd attempted to validate the president’s decision not to immediately fire Secretary Shinseki with the defense that if he did, “maybe people would stop paying attention to the scandal,” Rieckhoff retorted that “it is very hard to get fired in this administration” in the first place.
                               
The Army veteran then expressed his organization’s support for Boehner’s VA accountability bill which passed the House in a bipartisan vote but could falter in the Democratic-majority Senate. Rieckhoff agreed with Todd that it will probably fly through the Senate, but, he added, the upper chamber of Congress has been “pretty silent” on veterans concerns compared to the GOP-controlled House, which “has continued to be aggressive on veterans’ issues.”

Rieckhoff singled out self-described socialist Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) for failing to be “aggressive” in tackling those issues in his post as Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairman.   

The relevant transcript appears below:

MSNBC
The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd
May 22, 2014
9:19 a.m. Eastern
1 minute and 9 seconds

CHUCK TODD: Well-and that's the thing- nobody seems to be able to tame the bureaucracy. So what do you do? I mean let's-let's, that always seems to be, that's always the president's rational frustration here. He says, you know, I don't want to just fire somebody because you hear that, if you fire somebody then maybe people stop paying attention to the scandal. So it is rooted in the bureaucracy.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America CEO: It is very hard to get fired in this administration. I mean, we're trying to think about the last person who was fired and it might have been McChrystal, right. And it was because he spoke truth to power and said what he really thought. So I think here with, with Shinseki whether he stays or go, there are deeply entrenched problems. Yesterday, Boehner put forth a VA accountability act that will empower the VA to fire people, we've supported that.

TODD: Right that bill has already passed the House.

RIECKHOFF Right, and now it's going to go to the Senate.

TODD: I imagine it'll fly.

RIECKHOFF: Well, it probably will. And that's been the problem throughout this. Is that the House has continued to be aggressive on veterans' issues and the Senate's been pretty silent. The oversight on the Senate's Veterans' Affairs Committee by Bernie Sanders has not been aggressive and they've really got to step up their game because they're at fault here too. Both committees, the president, everybody in Congress, they can't just throw Shinseki under the bus alone. Everyone knew this was happening. There have been GAO reports and IG reports and hearing after hearing after hearing. So if you're not outraged already, you haven't been paying attention.


 

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.