WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s nomination of his presidential physician, Ronny Jackson, to head the Veterans Affairs department ran into trouble on Tuesday when a Senate committee delayed his confirmation in light of “new information” it had received.
“We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review,” Republican Johnny Isakson, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Democrat Jon Tester, the panel’s ranking member, said in a joint statement.
The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, reported on Tuesday that the committee, which had planned to hold a nomination hearing on Wednesday, was examining allegations that Jackson oversaw a hostile work environment as White House physician and allowed the overprescribing of drugs.
Trump chose Jackson last month ago to replace David Shulkin at the VA after an official report found that Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament and his chief of staff made false statements so Shulkin’s wife could travel at government expense.
But questions about Jackson’s level of experience to head a large bureaucracy weighed on his nomination before allegations surfaced in the New York Times of improper conduct.
Jackson, a U.S. Navy rear admiral, has worked as a presidential physician since the George W. Bush administration, and has been the lead doctor monitoring Trump’s health since Trump became president.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley defended Jackson, saying he had a “record of strong, decisive leadership” and that is what is needed at the veterans agency.
A White House official said the allegations raised against Jackson are unfair and “don’t appear to pass the smell test.”
The official said there will be a discussion among senior officials on possible next steps in the nomination strategy, such as putting pressure on senators to back Jackson.
“At this stage I think we’re full steam ahead,” the official said, adding that the future of the nomination could depend on whether Jackson has the stomach for a prolonged nomination fight.
Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters his first instinct was to support Trump’s nominee.
But he added, “I certainly support the committee’s work to vet his background because we need to know the full picture,” Cornyn said.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis