Washington (AFP) – The US Senate on Tuesday postponed a confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, expressing concerns about “serious allegations” facing the controversial nominee.
The announcement threw the nomination of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, presently the White House doctor, into deep jeopardy as allegations surfaced that he oversubscribed medications while in the US Navy and at the White House, struggled with alcohol use, and created a hostile work environment.
The top members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, chairman Johnny Isakson and ranking Democrat Jon Tester, released a joint statement announcing the delay of the hearing that was set for Wednesday, “in light of new information presented to the committee” about the nominee.
“We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.”
No new hearing date has been set.
The damning allegations about Jackson’s conduct were reported by CBS News and The New York Times.
The White House on Tuesday appeared to stand by Jackson.
“Admiral Jackson’s record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” spokesman Hogan Gidley reportedly said in a statement.
Trump picked Jackson, 50, to replace sacked veterans affairs secretary David Shulkin, who stood accused of lavish spending on a nine-day trip to Europe that included sightseeing at castles and taking in Wimbledon tennis matches.
Jackson’s stock with Trump rose after he pronounced in January that the 71-year-old president was in “excellent” health.
But Democrats and Republicans alike had already expressed concerns about Trump’s choice, fearing Jackson lacks the management experience to lead such a sprawling agency.
The VA has 360,000 employees and an annual budget of $186 billion.
Congress has spent years struggling with how to reform the agency, which has been under fire for a series of health care lapses, equipment shortfalls, and what an inspector general’s scathing investigative report described as “a culture of complacency and sense of futility” within VA facilities.