Congressional hearings are normally boring affairs. But not the budget hearing yesterday that featured Bob McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble and now secretary of Veterans’ Affairs. Sparks flew over whether the VA has made enough progress in cleaning up scandals and service backlogs in the six months since Eric Shinseki, McDonald’s predecessor, was forced to resign.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, didn’t mince words in saying McDonald was “glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department.” He cited a troubled VA hospital construction project in Denver that was years behind schedule and way over budget.
McDonald wasn’t having any of it. He responded: “I’ve run a large company sir. What have you done?”
Coffman, who served in the Army during both Iraq wars and has run a property management firm, didn’t respond. Instead he drilled down against a department he said was “mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption.” He added: “I think the public relations is great today, but there’s no substance. There is no substance.”
That set McDonald off: “I’m highly offended by your comments, Mr. Coffman.” He then tried to pin the problems Coffman had cited back on the congressman.
“I’ve been here six months,” McDonald said. “You’ve been here longer than I have. If there’s a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.”
Coffman suspended his grilling after that, but did issue a statement later: “I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has. I’ve never built a hospital that’s years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. And I’ve never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list.”
Capitol Hill observers can’t wait for the next round of the McDonald-Coffman title fight. Here’s also hoping the bureaucrats at the VA were paying attention and their sluggish behavior improves.