Politically obsessed Washington is flipping out over the stunning upset of Eric Cantor, the No. 2 ranking Republican in the House. The Majority Leader lost Tuesday’s primary to Dave Brat, a little known Virginia college professor from the tea party wing of the GOP.
Many of the experts, especially the TV talking-head variety, say his loss means it will be even tougher for House Republicans to compromise with the Democratic minority on anything. Some are predicting another two years of gridlock in the House because of this one primary defeat.
Some Washington-based pundits believe that Cantor bit the dust because he supported immigration reform. But talks with nonpundits and people in his Richmond district indicate that there were other factors afoot. A former D.C.-based newsman, a longtime resident of Richmond, indicated that “a lot of voters found him aloof and absent. They feel he has ‘Gone Washington’ in his quest for the job as majority leader.” Indeed, Cantor was in Washington on primary day, rather than poll-hopping and hand-shaking in his district just 90 miles from D.C. A Richmond school teacher said Cantor was rarely visible and seemed more “Washington-focused.”
Whether Cantor’s political demise is proof of major political climate change, remains to be seen.
Ironically, the day after his defeat the Senate passed a bipartisan bill designed, backers say, to cure the ills of the VA’s medical system. The bill, by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), gives VA streamlined power to fire top career employees and ends bonuses in the third largest federal agency. The House had previously cleared similar bipartisan legislation.
The bipartisan crackdown on the VA has split groups representing federal workers.
J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, blamed chronic medical staff shortages for much of the problem. He said “numerous front-line medical jobs” still haven’t been filled and this is responsible for the long wait times. He said in some areas, VA made promises it couldn’t keep. In that kind of enviroment, he said, “instances of wait list gaming become almost inevitable.”
The Senior Executives Association says the Sanders-McCain bill is a rush to judgment, dealing with a problem Congress and top VA officials “have known about for 15 years.” President Carol Bonosaro said since 1999, numerous VA IG reports, Government Accountability Office reports and other inspections have consistently pointed out the problems. While she said some of the proposed changes are commendable and long overdue, “the easy-fire provisions affecting career members of the SES address neither real accountability for individual actions nor the root causes of access to patient care for veterans.”
Combat tax break for feds?
Meantime, somebody obviously didn’t get the word that cooperation between House Democrats and Republicans is dead.
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association endorsed a bill by Virginia Republicans Frank Wolf and Rob Wittman and Democrat Gerry E. Connolly to give tax breaks to feds in combat zones. Currently, military personnel and contractors get special treatment, but it is not available to the many civilians serving, some of them in very covert and dangerous posts.
NEARLY USELESS FACTOID
The famous font, Times New Roman, was first printed on Oct. 2, 1932 in the British newspaper, The Times.
Why is change so hard to accomplish in government? They may have the best of intentions, but people who have not spent time working within the bureaucracy rarely understand the complexities of changing government, particularly in this era of partisanship, says former DHS CHCO Jeff Neal.
Lawmakers push to approve unified veterans’ bill After two overwhelming votes in two days, members of Congress say they are confident they can agree on a bill to improve veterans’ health care and send it to the president’s desk by the end of the month.