Vote Explanation for H.R. 1259 — VA Accountability First Act of 2017

As a Marine veteran, I made a commitment when I was elected to Congress to continue receiving my healthcare at the VA. Reforming the VA to provide our veterans the best health care in the world should be a top priority for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Last week, the House passed H.R. 1259, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. This bill would give the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for poor performance or misconduct. While I agree that VA management must be empowered to hold their employees accountable, buried in this bill is a poison pill. This partisan language would eliminate collective bargaining rights of employees and fails to maintain whistleblower protections for those who speak out against misconduct and mismanagement at VA facilities. The VA has shown that these measures can weaken the applicant pool for jobs and discourage employees from reporting problems. During consideration of the bill, I voted in favor of an amendment offered by the Ranking Member of the VA Committee, Congressman Walz, that would have replaced this partisan language with bipartisan legislation first introduced by Senator Isakson (R-GA) that would empower the VA Secretary to hold VA employees accountable. Unfortunately, this amendment was not adopted. For this reason, I voted against H.R. 1259.

Though this bill ultimately passed the House, it has a tough road ahead in the Senate. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate can restore the bipartisan language it had in the past. The health care of our veterans is too important.