The Hill article The Senate voted Monday to confirm a nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs department who was previously a lawyer for a defense contractor and a longtime donor to the Clintons.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was nominated to lead Veterans Affairs by a 51-48 vote.
The vote came amid a political backlash to his nomination, which prompted Democrats to ask him to recuse himself from overseeing the department’s handling of veterans suicides.
Sessions, a longtime Trump ally, has previously been a longtime supporter of the Clintons, including his support for her 2016 presidential bid.
The VA has long struggled with the issue of suicide.
Since the mid-1980s, the department has experienced a spike in suicides among veterans.
In 2016, the VA saw a record 1,946 suicides, nearly double the number of suicides in 2016.
The department has been struggling with a surge in suicides in recent years.
At the time of Sessions’ confirmation, the administration had already begun rolling back some of the most restrictive policies that VA had taken to combat suicide, including restrictions on mental health treatment and hiring of veterans to care for the elderly.
Sessions is known for his hard-line views on veterans.
He was one of the only senators to oppose Trump’s proposed border wall and was one the first Republicans to criticize Trump for using the death of an American soldier in Afghanistan to criticize a Gold Star family’s grief.
Sessions’ nomination was initially scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.) said he would not allow the vote to go forward on the Senate floor.
“If I was going to vote to confirm someone to lead a department of the federal government, I would not be voting for Jeff Sessions,” McConnell said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Sessions’ vote will likely face opposition from Democrats, who have been urging him to reject the nomination.
“Jeff Sessions has a history of pandering to white supremacists, white supremacists who have donated to his political campaigns,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said during a recent Senate floor speech.
“In the years leading up to the election, Jeff Sessions voted to support President Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military, which is an assault on our veterans and a clear violation of our Constitution.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D, Conn.), who led the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for many years, said the nomination should be off the table because he thinks it would “send the wrong message” to the VA.
“It is incumbent upon every president and every vice president to show leadership on this issue, and that’s exactly what they have not shown,” Blumenthal said.
The Trump administration has also been hit with criticism for its handling of suicides.
On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it was closing all but four of its hospitals.
And the VA has been facing growing criticism from veterans for its treatment of PTSD, which many believe contributed to the veterans suicide rates.
The agency has admitted that some of its doctors had misdiagnosed patients with PTSD and said they were unable to diagnose them with other serious illnesses.
The report, which was released Tuesday, noted that more than a third of the people who committed suicide in 2016 had been treated for PTSD, including veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.