Minnesotans in Congress greet Shinseki departure with relief, resignation

  • Updated: May 30, 2014 - 10:09 PM

Minnesota’s delegation reacts

Minnesota members of the U.S. Senate and House reacted to the departure of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday with a mix of emotions that stretched from relief to resignation.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat who had called for Shinseki to leave, called the four-star general’s departure “the right thing for our veterans.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, also a Democrat, said a just-released report of “widespread falsification of documents and denied medical care within the VA” showed that “the VA needs new leadership.”

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who called for Shinseki’s job last week, said Shinseki “made the right decision.” But Bachmann laid the ultimate blame on President Obama, who, Bachmann said, “refuses to take responsibility for his own administration’s incompetence.”

Republican Rep. John Kline, an ex-Marine, acknowledged Shinseki’s military service but added that “the entire leadership of the VA must be held accountable, which is why I have said for nearly two weeks his resignation was a necessary first step.”

Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who had earlier called for Shinseki to step down, chose not to issue statements Friday.

House Democrats from Minnesota characterized Shinseki as a good person caught in an untenable situation.

“Everyone knows General Shinseki is an honorable man who was unfortunately misled and let down by those working under him,” Rep. Tim Walz said. Rep. Rick Nolan, who had called for Shinseki to resign, said the general was “a good soldier who did the right thing” because his presence was “distracting attention away from the heroes this agency is intended to serve.”

Rep. Keith Ellison said Shinseki put “veterans before his career” in giving up his post. Ellison, like most of his House and Senate colleagues, called for a new secretary strong enough to engineer a comprehensive fix of a broken system.

Rep. Betty McCollum struck the most sympathetic note for Shinseki, saying his resignation was “an unfortunate political reality.” McCollum said that Shinseki was “betrayed” by VA personnel who hid problems in the veterans health care system from the public.

Klobuchar echoed that point calling, like Paulsen, for legislation that makes it “easier to replace senior officials found responsible for mismanagement.”

Jim Spencer

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