House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sharpened his criticism of the Obama administration's handling of allegations of mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday and went further than he has before in criticizing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
Citing reports in his home state detailing mismanagement at a VA facility there, Boehner reiterated that he hasn't called for the secretary's resignation, "although I have to admit I'm getting a little closer."
"But here's the point, this isn't about one person," he said. "This isn't about the secretary. It's about the entire system underneath him. And you know, the general can leave and we can wait around for months to go through a nomination process and we get a new person. But the disaster continues. And so I don't want -- I don't want people to get confused about what the shiny ball is here. The shiny ball is a systemic failure of this agency."
Boehner said he supported ongoing investigations by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in part because he doesn't have confidence that the VA's inspector general has the capacity to investigation allegations of mismanagement and delayed care at more than two dozen VA facilities.
Asked why he was getting "closer" to calling for Shinseki's ouster, Boehner said it's because "the reports that continue to come are appalling. And these are men and women who served our country and we've not just let them down, we've let them die."
Boehner's comments came on the same day that Shinseki is set to visit Capitol Hill to meet with Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and others about reports of problems at VA facilities in their home states. And Rob Nabors, a top Obama aide, is in Phoenix Thursday to visit the facility where the current scandal began to unfold.
The House voted Wednesday night to approve a bill that would make it easier for Shinseki to demote or fire senior career employees at the department. The fate of the legislation remains unclear in the Senate.