Bernie Sanders on VA Bill: We Should Know What’s In It Before We Vote on It

By Melanie Arter | May 23, 2014 | 12:28 PM EDT

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (AP Photo)

( – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who voted for Obamacare, said Thursday that the Senate should hold a hearing to find out what’s in a bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that makes it easier to fire those responsible for the mounting backlog at VA medical facilities, before senators vote on it.

“I happen to think that the bill that was passed in the House yesterday has many important provisions, which I happen to agree with, but as the senator from Florida knows, we have not held a hearing on this legislation. And some of us are old-fashioned enough to know that maybe folks in the Senate might want to know what is in the bill before we voted on it,” said Sanders on the Senate floor.

As previously reported, on March 19, 2010 – just days before Obamacare became law – then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a speech before the Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”

Sanders voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. As previously reported, there are 10,535 pages of final Obamacare regulations. reported that several top Democratic officials – including PelosiSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), refused to say whether they read all the regulations.

Current law allows Senior Executive Service (SES) workers, a group representing most VA senior leaders, “to be disciplined and fired, but there are considerable amounts of red tape involved and the process can drag on for long periods of time,” according to a press release on Rubio’s website.

Sanders and Democrats in the Senate blocked Rubio’s bill – the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 – which “gets rid of these hurdles in order to give the VA secretary authorities similar to those Members of Congress have to fire employees from their staffs.”

While Sanders said top administrators at the VA should be held accountable and efforts to remove incompetent employees should not be thwarted by “an enormous amount of paperwork and obstruction,” he expressed concern that Rubio’s bill could lead to the VA being “politicized.”

Sanders imagined that during the new administration – whether Democratic or Republican – the new secretary could decide to replace 20 to 50 hospital administrators and “they don’t have a right to defend themselves.”