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In a Jan. 27, 2021 photo, Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough listens during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Capitol Hill.

In a Jan. 27, 2021 photo, Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough listens during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Capitol Hill. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool)

WASHINGTON – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to advance the nomination of Denis McDonough as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The committee voted for McDonough unanimously, paving the way for his confirmation. The nomination next goes to the Senate floor. It was uncertain Tuesday when the vote would take place.

“Though there is a great political divide in this nation, veterans across the country and members on both sides of the aisle are united by a very basic expectation: that the next VA Secretary be an individual of honesty, integrity, and vision,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the committee chairman, in a statement after the vote.

Some Republican senators announced their support for President Joe Biden’s pick for VA secretary last week, during McDonough’s confirmation hearing.

“I just wanted you to know – based upon what you have said – that I will vote for your confirmation, and I will ask my Republican colleagues to do the same,” Moran said at the time. “Your commitment is evident to me. We wish you well in this endeavor.”

McDonough, 51, served as principal deputy national security adviser under former President Barack Obama and later took the job as Obama’s chief of staff. McDonough began working with Obama in 2007 as the then-senator’s senior foreign policy adviser. Before working for Obama, McDonough held staff positions in the House and Senate.

If confirmed by the Senate, McDonough will take the helm of the second-largest federal agency, which operates America’s largest health care system.

McDonough is set to replace former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. Dat Tran, principal deputy assistant secretary for the VA’s Office of Enterprise Integration, is serving as acting secretary.

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Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.

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