The White House says President Obama will veto legislation that would let the Department of Veterans Affairs fire corrupt or negligent officials, in part because that change would make the VA a less pleasant place to work for federal employees.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced the VA Accountability Act in response to the VA's failure to hold almost anyone responsible for the VA healthcare scandal, massive cost overruns at new construction projects and other problems.
But the White House said in a statement released late Tuesday that Miller's bill would be unfair to the VA, since it would create a "disparity" between VA workers and officials at other government agencies.
"It would make conditions of employment in VA significantly less attractive than in other federal agencies or in the private sector, and as a result, would discourage outstanding VA employees from remaining in VA and dramatically impair VA's ability to recruit top talent, including veterans," the White House said in a statement on the bill.
So far, however, working at a VA that is more protective of its workers hasn't yielded great results for veterans. The VA is still famous for long wait times for healthcare, and has said it wants to scale back a new change to the law that lets veterans seek care outside the VA. It has also watched the price of a Denver hospital jump more than $1 billion above its original estimated cost, and only forced a top construction official to retire after Congress complained.
Much of the unpleasantness for VA workers under Miller's bill would be that they could be fired without being able to appeal the decision to the full Merit Systems Protection Board. The White House said this abbreviated review process would remove "important rights, protections and incentives" for federal workers.
The White House also said Miller's bill raises "serious concerns" about whether firing corrupt or inept VA workers for cause would violate the Constitution, an argument based on the idea that the president generally gets to make such decisions.
"Other provisions of the bill, such as those that would mandate rotation of VA senior executive employees every five years or impose arbitrary restrictions on performance ratings provided to VA senior executives, would also be disruptive and would hinder VA's ability to function effectively on behalf of veterans," the White House added.
Despite the White House's veto threat, the House passed the bill Wednesday evening in a 256-170 vote. Sixteen Democrats voted for the bill.