U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is so desperate for an accomplishment to tout with Colorado voters for his reelection bid, that his office is hawking a far-fetched and loathsome plan by the VA to finish construction of the Aurora hospital.
According to the AP, the sales pitch came from Bennet’s office suggesting the Obama administration could actually raid the fund established by Congress to address VA mismanagement and corruption that was so rampant, it actually led to the deaths of numerous veterans.
The political ploy is so revolting, only a salty veteran sailor could adequately describe the ruse. But for now, here’s what the AP said:
The department wants to transfer $830 million from the fund to the $1.73 billion hospital under construction in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said. Congress allocated the $5 billion to hire more physicians, upgrade facilities, improve efficiency and make other changes to give veterans better access to health care.
A VA spokesman didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
We looked up this specific authorization by Congress and the only construction it allowed was for “minor” work. The Washington Post says the cost overruns are so excessive in Aurora, the hospital beds come at a price tag of $9.5 million each.
Even by Washington standards, that is not minor.
After dangling the proposal with the Denver Post to get his boss some ink, spokesflak Bozzi demurred on whether Bennet was ready to endorse the raid.
Aides to Bennet — who was one of the first lawmakers to hear of the proposal — said the Colorado Democrat still is reviewing it to see if he agrees with the approach.
“It’s encouraging that the VA appears to be identifying real dollars to complete this hospital for Colorado’s veterans,” said Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi. “Now we need to ensure there is full accountability and transparency for this project and others moving forward.”
Does Bennet’s office truly believe there would be “accountability and transparency” for illegally spending money Congress didn’t trust the administration with in the first place?
Here’s the smoke-filled, back room deal.
The Obama administration actually wanted $18 billion for that fund they now wish to raid, but Congress “expressed concerns about the lack of specifics in that request,” the Military Times reported last summer.
House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., earlier in the week called the $5 billion agreement a “down payment” on those proposals, with additional funds to be discussed in future appropriations bills.
Here’s something we don’t say very often – Congress was right – the administration could not even be trusted to properly spend the initial $5 billion on medical staff and “minor construction.”
Why is the administration now so desperate to “find” money for hospital construction?
Because U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner want to raid a more target-rich fund that Coloradans would ecstatically support – salary bonuses being paid to the top VA officials who mucked up the agency in the first place.
Here’s what Coffman had to say in a statement last night about the administration’s scheme:
“Despite scandal after scandal involving VA bureaucrats, they are unwilling to sacrifice a single dime of their bonus money to pay for their mistakes. This is just another example of VA leadership being far more concerned about serving themselves than serving our veterans who have sacrificed so much for this country and who deserve better.”
“The VA hospital in Aurora must be built but the cost overruns need to be paid for without compromising the reforms, recently passed by Congress, to improve the VA’s ability to care for our nation’s veterans.”
When VA officials come to town Wednesday for a hearing on the Aurora construction scandal, we fully expect the congressional panel to smack the administration silly over their suggestion.
Bennet should also be ashamed of himself for acting as Obama’s puppet in this cynical attempt for political favor.