This May 19, 2014 photo shows a a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC.
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty

GOP has little interest in ‘Mar-a-Lago crowd’ that helped run the VA

Updated

Pro Publica’s report two weeks ago on “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd” helping oversee Donald Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs read like the plot of a farcical film.

It described a dynamic in which three wealthy members of Trump’s Florida resort have effectively overseen a federal cabinet agency for months, despite having no relevant experience, and despite no oversight or accountability of any kind, basically because they’re pals with the president through the club he still owns and profits from.

Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, a West Palm Beach doctor, Ike Perlmutter, the chairman of Marvel Entertainment, and Marc Sherman, a Florida lawyer, have been at the center of this scheme for reasons no one can explain. The triumvirate have overseen everything from the VA’s digital records system to personnel decisions, occasionally using their influence in ways that may have benefited their private financial interests.

House Democrats were furious in response to the revelations, and Senate Democrats soon followed, demanding congressional hearings. Some veterans’ advocacy groups announced plans to file suit to prevent “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd” from helping run an agency the trio has nothing to do with.

And what about congressional Republicans with oversight authority over the Trump administration’s handling of veterans’ issues? Roll Call  reports that GOP lawmakers are taking a pass.

Top Republican lawmakers have no plans to examine the alleged influence that a trio of President Donald Trump’s friends have at the Department of Veterans Affairs, even as Democrats call for an investigation.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the VA now has a new secretary, so he’s “moving ahead” without any real scrutiny of what’s transpired.

The Georgia Republican conceded that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago pals did work that circumvented the oversight committee, but Isakson added, “There wasn’t anything I could do about it. It never caused us any trouble. It was certainly disruptive and held the VA back some, but we got a great secretary now.”

The chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee was powerless to stop three outsiders from helping run the VA? Seriously?

This may seem predictable, but I wasn’t entirely sure Republicans would take such a passive approach to the controversy.

As a rule, committee chairs don’t like it when the executive branch brazenly ignores their authority. In a case like this one, Congress was overseeing the VA, while three unqualified country-club members in Florida helped run the VA from the shadows.

It’s exactly the sort of thing Congress should want to examine closely, even if the matter has been resolved, in part to bring some modicum of accountability, and in part to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill have decided not to care, which only reinforces the scope of the problem with Trump-era politics: it’s not just the president’s many abuses; it’s the GOP Congress’ willingness to look the other way in the face of damaging evidence.