Romanoff: Coffman should also be held accountable for VA problems

Politics

Congressman Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, in his district office.

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DENVER — As Congressman Mike Coffman continues to take a strong stance against VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, often pointing out that he was the first member of Congress to call for his resignation, his Democratic opponent is pointing to a recent vote by Coffman against additional funding for the VA.

In January, Coffman voted against a spending bill that included $100 million in federal funding to help the VA reduce a backlog of veterans waiting for care.

Shinseki, of course, is under fire after revelations that veterans across the country have had to wait more than 100 days to be seen at VA hospitals in some places and that managers, perhaps incentivized by bonuses, falsified records to indicate that veterans were being seen faster than they actually were.

“The problems at the VA will be resolved not by words but by action,” said Democrat Andrew Romanoff, who’s challenging Coffman in one of the most competitive House races in the country. “That means demanding accountability both from the administration and from Congress. Our veterans deserve no less.”

All four Colorado Republicans in the House including GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner voted against the complete spending bill, which included roughly $1 billion in funding for the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP has consistently fought against.

Coffman, R-Aurora, has been outspoken in his criticism of the VA, over this scandal and the agency’s mismanagement of VA hospital construction projects, many of which are over-budget and behind schedule.

The Aurora Sentinel, which first reported that Coffman’s vote complicates his current rhetoric related to the VA, noted that “Coffman did not comment on his vote after repeated requests.”

After the story was published, Coffman responded and explained that he voted against the bill in question because “it cut veterans’ benefits by $6 billion.”

His campaign explains that he’s referring to a $6 billion cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees and points out that a veterans group even took to the airwaves with an ad thanking Coffman for his vote.

In 2013, the Mountain States Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America named Coffman its “Legislator of the Year.”

After a preliminary report Wednesday from the Inspector General showed problems at the VA to be worse and more widespread than initially thought, the floodgates opened on Capitol Hill as a number of Democrats, most of them in tough reelection fights, finally broke ranks with the White House and joined the GOP’s calls for Shinseki’s resignation.

“The gall it takes for Speaker Romanoff to attack Mike Coffman on standing up for veterans only underscores what a spineless, sleazy politician he is,” said Tyler Sandberg, Coffman’s campaign spokesman. “If Andy had bothered to check his facts he would understand that Mike voted against the bill because it cut veterans benefits by over $6 billion.”

But, Coffman’s official statement from January explaining the vote didn’t mention anything about veterans benefits.

“I’m voting against the $1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for the same reason that I voted against the budget,” Coffman said in the Jan. 15 statement. “It breaks the spending caps on defense without any real effort at reforming how the Pentagon operates. I will continue to work hard to reform the Pentagon to make sure that every dollar appropriated for the defense of our country is effectively spent for that purpose.”

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, in a tight race against Gardner this fall, was the first Democrat in the Senate to call for Shinseki’s resignation Wednesday.

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