Eric Shinseki is in way worse shape than Kathleen Sebelius. Just look at this chart.

May 29, 2014

With members of Congress increasingly calling for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, it's hard not to compare his position with former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the wake of the troubled  -- to put it nicely -- rollout of healthcare.gov last fall.

And when you compare them, one thing becomes obvious: Shinseki's position is much worse.

We compiled calls for the resignation of each Cabinet secretary from news reports, plotting them in relation to the moment at which each secretary's position reached a moment of crisis. For Sebelius, we put that at the day after the launch of Healthcare.gov, October 2, 2013. For Shinseki, we put it at CNN's report on backups at VA hospitals on April 23 of this year.

Here's the comparison; analysis underneath.


(This chart will be updated as more calls for resignation are made public.)

In each of these timelines, there was a point of inflection.

For Sebelius, it came with the end of the government shutdown, about two weeks into her crisis. At that point, attention turned from the Republicans' failed strategy on the budget and to Sebelius' failed Web site. Shortly afterward, a group of 32 Republican House members signed a letter to the president demanding Sebelius resign.

Shinseki's inflection point came yesterday, the second-to-last-notch on the right-hand timeline, when a report from the VA's inspector general revealed the scale of the problems. But notice two differences. First, the presence of blue dots, indicating calls from Democrats for him to step aside. (That never happened with Sebelius.) Second, calls for Shinseki to resign had already been increasing over the past week -- even before Wednesday's dam-breaking.

The biggest problem Shinseki  faces is related to those blue dots. Sebelius had the good fortune to come under fire a year before the midterm elections. Shinseki's problems arose in the midst of primaries and at the beginning of the general election.

It took 190 days for Sebelius to resign. If Shinseki is still in his position by 190 days from the start of his crisis — October 30, less than a week before Election Day — it would surprise more than a few people.


Update: ABC has an exhaustive / exhausting list of politicians that it says have called for Shinseki's resignation. We're working our way through matching dates to names, but it simply reinforces the point above.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.
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