Democrats on Wednesday joined the growing choir of Republicans calling for the ouster of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki following the release of a new report that found manipulated records and delayed medical care are widespread problems throughout the VA health system.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., became the first Senate Democrat to call for Shinseki’s resignation, a sign that any support for the embattled VA leader could quickly be crumbling.
"We need new leadership who will demand accountability to fix these problems," Udall said in a statement.
Montana's Democratic Sen. John Walsh said in a statement that it is "time for President Obama to remove Secretary Shinseki from office."
Both Udall and Walsh are locked in tight contests to hold on to their Senate jobs in November. North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, also in a tight race, joined in calling for Shinseki's resignation Wednesday evening.
Also calling for Shinseki's immediate removal were Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, who represent the state where the accusations against the VA originated. The VA inspector general’s report supplemented allegations that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for treatment at a Phoenix facility, and that secret patient wait lists were used to hide the treatment delays.
"I believe that this issue has reached a level that requires the Justice Department involvement," McCain said. "These allegations are not just administrative problems, these are criminal problems."
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also called for a criminal investigation.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, added their names to the list of high-profile Congressional Republicans calling for new leadership in the VA as well.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sent a letter to Shinseki warning him that any support he may still have from Democrats is growing dangerously weak.
"While I have not yet joined in calls for your resignation, I assure you that patience in Congress for what we perceive as inaction on the part of the VA to immediately and fully address these issues is vanishingly thin," Manchin wrote.
President Barack Obama found the report "extremely troubling," according to a statement from the White House.
Shinseki called the findings "reprehensible" and directed an immediate triage of the veterans who have experienced delays in care.