A major legislative victory for President Trump - House and Senate passage of a bill that sets into motion a full-scale house-cleaning at the Veterans Administration - has so far been ignored by the national evening newscasts of ABC and CBS, as well as Spanish-language Univision and Telemundo.
The bill, known as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act and whose chief sponsor in the Senate was Marco Rubio, passed the Senate on June 6 and the House on June 13. Rubio's bill was co-sponsored by Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT).
Among the broadcast networks, only NBC Nightly News has even mentioned the congressional action, which enables VA Secretary David Shulkin to swiftly fire employees who have ill-served the nation’s tens of millions of veterans, who depend upon the agency for their health care.
The bill is now expected to be signed into law by President Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to get rid of problem workers at the United States Government’s second largest agency and apply similar ‘drain the swamp’ measures as well to the rest of the Federal Government.
“For months, I’ve worked with Representative Jeff Miller and veterans organizations to pass legislation empowering the Veterans Affairs Secretary to fire incompetent and negligent managers,” said Rubio of the bill. He also correctly predicted on the floor of the United States Senate that most of the media would ignore the passage of the bill, and he was right.
Rubio and other House and Senate co-sponsors targeted the VA’s existing civil service protections, which enabled a systemic lack of accountability that has led to the deaths of veterans at several hospitals, as well as scandalously long waiting lists for care.
“We're bringing accountability,” added Speaker Paul Ryan.“Now, we're getting to the veterans the kind of response and accountability that they earned and deserve.”
The next test for media coverage will be the President’s upcoming signing of the bill, which has yet to be scheduled.
Below is the complete transcript of NBC Nightly News coverage of House passage of the bill, as aired on June 13, 2017.
LESTER HOLT, NEWS ANCHOR: One more important note from Washington. After numerous scandals in recent years at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the House passed a bill today that would hold VA employees more accountable to make it easier to fire them and protect whistleblowers. The vote was 368 to 55. The bill was passed by the Senate last week and now heads to the President for final approval.