Top House Republican leaders led by Speaker John Boehner wrote to President Obama on Wednesday demanding short-term answers and a long-term plan for addressing the crisis engulfing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last week following revelations that staff at VA facilities had systematically fudged records to hide delays in care provided to veterans. Congress is now considering a host of legislative strategies to address the problems.
In their letter, Boehner and other GOP leaders argue that Obama should push the Democratic-controlled Senate to act on a House-passed bill that would make it easier for the VA to punish or fire managers who are "underperforming." They also say Obama needs to order the VA to be more forthcoming with congressional oversight.
But the real gist of the letter is here:
"It is imperative that you lay out for the American people your vision for reforming what is clearly a broken system. Are you willing to do whatever it takes, pending the results of the investigations that are underway, to ensure our veterans get the care we owe them, even if it means shaking up the current bureaucracy and rethinking the entire system? Do you agree the VA is a system that may need to be fundamentally transformed in order to meet its mandate of service and care to our nation's veterans?"
This speaks to the emerging GOP narrative that what has been happening at the VA is not a problem of mismanagement, but a structural problem of a large government bureaucracy. Republicans are beginning to eye solutions that involve more private care for veterans and less government involvement.