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Government's 2nd-Largest Department Gets a Leader

Senate confirms Robert Wilkie as head of Veterans Affairs
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2018 12:02 AM CDT
In a Wednesday, June 27, 2018 file photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert Wilkie is sworn in at the start of a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee nominations hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
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(Newser) – The government's second largest department once again has a leader. The Senate voted 86-9 Monday to confirm Robert Wilkie as the 10th secretary of Veterans Affairs, filling a post that was previously occupied by David Shulkin. President Trump's original pick to replace Shulkin, White House physician Ronny Jackson, ended up withdrawing. NPR describes the 55-year-old Wilkie as a "safe pick" with a deep military background: He himself is a Navy veteran and active member of the Air Force reserves, and his father was seriously wounded while fighting in Vietnam. But the Washington Post reports what has in the past always been a unanimous vote—with senators looking to show bipartisan support for veterans—wasn't quite there for the first time.

Bernie Sanders was in the nay category, with NPR reporting his vote was more a larger statement against any Trump administration moves to privatize the VA. But the AP reports the Wilkie did indeed vow not to privatize the VA. It calls the vote "a moment of respite from the sharp political divisions engulfing Trump's other nominees in the final months before congressional midterm elections." The Post notes potential 2020 candidates including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Giilibrand were among the other nos. Wilkie is currently the head of military personnel for the Pentagon. (Read more Department of Veterans Affairs stories.)

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