Senate lawmakers have indefinitely delayed the confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the sprawling Veterans Affairs agency, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, after serious allegations surfaced accusing him of professional and personal misconduct.
Jackson had been scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, but the hearing was called off as lawmakers considered as yet unsubstantiated allegations made by whistleblowers accusing him of overseeing a toxic work environment at the White House and excessive drinking.
Both Republican and Democratic senators agreed to postpone the hearing so a more thorough investigation of his background could be conducted.
“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” the committee chairman, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, and the panel’s top Democrat, Senator Jon Tester, said in a statement. “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.”
Another senator, Democrat Ed Markey, told CNN, “Clearly, there was no comprehensive vetting of this nominee” by the White House before Trump nominated him to the Cabinet position. “Let’s stop, let’s learn more of his background both professionally and personally.”
Jackson, who currently serves as Trump’s physician, already was facing scrutiny over his lack of experience managing an agency as large as the VA. With 377,000 employees, it’s the U.S. government’s second-largest agency.
Jackson gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians earlier this year when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, gushing at length about Trump’s health after conducting the president’s physical exam.
Trump, the oldest first-term president in American history, was plagued at the time by questions about his physical health, weight and mental stability. But Jackson gave the president a top rating. “The president’s overall health is excellent,” Jackson declared at the time.
Trump picked Jackson to replace David Shulkin, a holdover from the administration of former president Barack Obama, whom Trump fired.
Amidst the allegations surfacing against Jackson, the White House has continued to stick by his nomination.
On Tuesday, a White House spokesman said, “Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country. He has served as the physician to three presidents – Republican and Democrat – and been praised by them all. 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.”