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Obama facing political storm on VA hospitals

Waits for results of review as GOP turns up the heat

WASHINGTON — The White House fought on Tuesday to contain the growing political furor over allegations of misconduct at the nation’s veterans hospitals as Republicans, eager to use the issue in the midterm elections, seized on the reports as new evidence that President Obama is unable to govern effectively.

Rob Nabors, the president’s deputy chief of staff, will fly to the veterans medical facility in Phoenix on Wednesday to assess the most damning reports — that government workers falsified data or created secret waiting lists to hide the long delays veterans faced before seeing doctors.

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The president is also dispatching Denis R. McDonough, his chief of staff, to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to consult with the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Bernard Sanders, Independent of Vermont.

Lawmakers are working on bipartisan legislation that would give veterans officials greater authority to fire those responsible at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill and the Senate is expected to hold hearings on the legislation soon.

‘Fed up’

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Inside the White House, officials said that there was no political panic but that the issue was of serious, substantive concern — unlike, the officials said, a previous Republican uproar over extra scrutiny given to Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

White House officials described Obama as eager for the results of an investigation into the allegations by the VA’s inspector general and a separate review of hospital practices being conducted by Nabors and Eric Shinseki, the secretary of the department.

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Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, declined to say when Obama might address the situation again publicly.

“He is not at all pleased with some of the allegations and will be extremely unhappy if some of them prove to be true,” Carney said.

Republican lawmakers intensified their criticism of Obama, and some made it clear they intended to use the incidents at the veterans hospitals as fodder for a broader political theme about incompetence in Obama’s administration.

The increasing reports of misconduct at numerous veterans hospitals other than Phoenix in recent weeks has prompted outrage among members of both parties demanding swift action.

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