Sen. Joe Manchin
According to two sources familiar with the situation, a delay in the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s chosen candidate for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ general counsel has been caused by pressure to cease providing abortion services. This delay has been ongoing for over a year.
Senator Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, has aligned with Republicans on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to prevent the confirmation of Anjali Chaturvedi, a high-ranking lawyer at the Department of Justice. The decision was made due to the DOJ’s policy that permits the provision of abortion counseling and certain abortions at the VA. This policy was officially implemented last year and allows for the procedure to be performed in cases where the life or health of a veteran or beneficiary is at risk, or in situations of rape or incest. The policy also extends to dependents.
However, Manchin and Republicans are referring to federal regulations, such as a law passed in 1992, which prohibits the government from offering abortion services to military veterans. They claim that the VA has exceeded its jurisdiction. The VA has countered by stating that the law does not restrict the agency from expanding the definition of “necessary” medical care to include abortions.
The committee currently has a Democratic majority by one seat. They will not be able to move forward with her nomination unless Manchin votes in their favor, as long as the Republicans stay united.
A spokesperson for Manchin declined several requests to comment on whether he opposes the nomination, but stated that he is against the policy.
The spokesperson stated that Senator Manchin has expressed his belief that the current abortion policy of the VA is a clear violation of federal law. He is actively encouraging the Administration to reinstate the sensible safeguards that have been in place for many years, ensuring that federal funds cannot be used to finance abortions.
Not having a definite general counsel may hinder the VA’s supervision and affect its capability to carry out its goals and fulfill legal requirements.
Chaturvedi was granted a hearing by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in July of last year, but the committee has not yet taken a vote on her nomination. The member with the highest rank on the committee has not yet voted.Jerry Moran
(R-Kansas) and other Republican members of the committee questioned her about her stance on abortion during the hearing.
She mentioned that she had not yet had the opportunity to thoroughly examine the law, but she intends to collaborate with legal experts and carefully analyze the matter if she is confirmed. She promised to abide by the law and emphasized that the VA’s primary concern is the health and well-being of 300,000 women veterans of childbearing age.
According to two other sources, Moran requested a written response from her about the abortion policy after the hearing. However, her answers did not satisfy committee Republicans.
Sen. Bill Cassidy
During the committee hearing, the representative from Louisiana inquired about the policy and jokingly complimented her response as a strong confirmation hearing answer.
If approved, she would be responsible for executing the PACT Act, a law passed last year that increased veterans’ access to benefits for exposure to burn pits and toxins, and overseeing the agency’s problematic modernization of electronic health records.
The VAs’ policy has also drawn the ire of anti-abortion groups. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called it “egregious,” referenced the 1992 law, and said it allows “abortion on demand.” The group backed a congressional effort to block the rule led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville
The attempt, led by Senator Manchin (R-Ala.), who is a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and supported by other Republicans, was unsuccessful in April with a vote of 48-51. Senator Manchin was the only Democrat to join the Republicans in their efforts.
In a statement following the vote, Manchin expressed that this regulation goes beyond the VA’s legal power and is yet another demonstration of the Biden Administration’s trend of placing a political agenda above Constitutional procedures.
During the deadlock, VA Secretary Denis McDonough has been reaching out to committee members to determine their stance on Chaturvedi’s nomination, according to two sources familiar with the situation. In a recent media briefing, McDonough expressed his worry about the lack of progress on her nomination and stated his eagerness for the Senate to approve her.
McDonough stated that VA has 680 lawyers who are dedicated to working with Congress and the courts to ensure that the agency fulfills its statutory duties. Having a permanent general counsel in this role is significant.
Richard Hipolit, an experienced government employee, has temporarily fulfilled the position of general counsel.
Chaturvedi holds the position of deputy assistant attorney general within the criminal division of the Justice Department. They previously served as a legal advisor to Senator ___________.Dianne Feinstein
Representative (D-Calif.) is a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Mark Filip, who held the position of deputy attorney general during the Bush administration, collaborated with Chaturvedi in legal proceedings related to the 2010 BP oil spill and described her as an honest and truthful individual.
“I am unsure of her stance on abortion, but she is not fanatical,” Filip stated. “There were numerous matters in BP where individuals may have had personal opinions, and she approached them with a lawyer’s approach.”
Tuberville’s grip on numerous military appointments and advancements is causing a deadlock due to the Pentagon’s stance on abortion, which permits the procedure for service members stationed in states with restrictions or bans.
Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa)
Please wait for the nomination to be confirmed.
The confirmation of Tanya Bradsher as the second-in-command at the VA was also postponed, causing a delay in her appointment. However, the Senate Majority Leader was responsible for this delay.Chuck Schumer
Floor time was utilized to validate her confirmation from earlier this month. Schumer has successfully confirmed some of the leading military positions, however the majority still remain unconfirmed.