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Report: Treasure Coast congressman under consideration to lead Veterans' Affairs

Brian mast

via @AP

The Associated Press reports Florida Rep. Brian Mast, R-Treasure Coast, is under consideration to lead the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Read their report below: 

President Donald Trump is considering an Army veteran who is a Republican member of Congress for the position of Veterans Affairs secretary, part of a lengthening search for a nominee following the abrupt firing of David Shulkin in March.

A White House official on Thursday said Rep. Brian Mast of Florida, who was elected to the House in 2016, was among the list of candidates for the job heading an agency of 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans.

The White House official would not say whether Mast is the leading candidate for the VA position. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Mast is the first member of Congress to open a lawmaker satellite office in a VA facility, setting up shop in the West Palm Beach VA to meet with veterans. He was wounded when serving in Afghanistan in 2010, which resulted in the amputation of both of his legs.

Trump is seeking a nominee to lead the VA after White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson withdrew his nomination for the post last month.

Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, a former Pentagon undersecretary for personnel and readiness, and Samuel Spagnolo, the president of the National Association of Veterans Affairs Physicians and Dentists, are also under consideration for the post.

VA officials have told some veterans groups they are preparing for the possibility that the agency won't have a permanent VA secretary in place for another three months, as Trump mulls over replacement candidates.

The VA faces problems demanding immediate attention, including a multi-billion dollar revamp of electronic medical records now in limbo that members of Congress fear will prove too costly and wasteful, and a budget shortfall in the coming weeks in its private-sector Veterans Choice program.

The House is slated to vote on a wide-ranging bill next week that would give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the VA health system and fill the budget shortfall, a major step toward fulfilling Trump's promise to expand private care for veterans.

If Mast leaves his seat to run a Cabinet agency it could be a boon for Florida Democrats as the Treasure Coast district he represents is one of the state's competitive congressional districts. Mast broke with the majority of Republicans to announce his support for an assault weapons ban after the Parkland school shooting on Valentine's Day.

Trump won Mast's district by nine percentage points in 2016 but national Democrats plan to invest heavily in the district, which was recently represented by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, before he left the seat to unsuccessfully challenge Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. There are two Republicans in addition to Mast who are seeking the GOP nomination, and Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith are currently engaged in a competitive primary for the Democratic nomination. 

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