The scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs seems to grow worse by the day, and Republicans sense that it could badly damage President Barack Obama's credibility as an effective, competent manager.
The reason that the VA issue is so potentially harmful is that people may have died while awaiting delayed medical care at VA hospitals. Just as important, those affected were military veterans, one of the most honored groups in society.
Recognizing the political danger of inaction, Obama has sent Rob Nabors, deputy White House chief of staff, to help VA officials review what's gone wrong at the department. Nabors is scheduled to visit the veterans' facility in Phoenix this week.
One news report indicated that 40 military veterans may have died while waiting for care at the facility in Phoenix. There have also been news reports that VA officials falsified data to hide delays in care for veterans, and that serious delays in providing care may have been widespread around the country.
Some in the news media and various White House reporters are questioning why Obama has not spoken out publicly about the scandal as it has intensified in recent days. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the president will make public comments soon. "He is not at all pleased with some of the allegations and will be extremely unhappy if some of them prove to be true," Carney told reporters. But Carney refused to comment on what should be done because, he said, the allegations need to investigated first to determine their validity.
Several inquiries are underway, but they haven't stopped some members of Congress from calling for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Robert Petzel has already resigned as the top health official for the VA.
"The election of President Obama ushered in a new era of big government and with it a renewed flurry of mismanagement," noted Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Calif., a key GOP leader in the House, in a statement to reporters. "If the president truly did not know about these scandals and mistakes, we should doubt his ability to properly manage the leviathan government that he helped create."
Congress is considering legislation to make it easier to fire employees at the VA.
Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, told The New York Times: "We are talking about the lives of six and a half million men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend this country, who deserve to be treated with respect, not be made into a political football."