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Senate confirms Denis McDonough as VA secretary

Denis McDonough was confirmed Monday as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Denis McDonough was confirmed Monday as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Denis Richard McDonough as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Senate voted 87 to 7 with six senators not voting to confirm President Joe Biden's nomination for the position, making him only the second VA secretary in history who is not a veteran.

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Though lacking military experience, McDonough is a veteran administrator, having served as former President Barack Obama's chief of staff after holding various senior government positions.

Biden nominated McDonough for the position in early December to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is tasked with caring for the 18 million Americans who have served in the military.

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"The VA has one of the most sacred missions of any federal agency: to care for those who shall have borne the battle," Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said via Twitter on Monday. "Denis McDonough's decades of experience make him highly qualified for this job. I'm proud the Senate just confirmed him to serve as Pres. Biden's VA secretary."

McDonough, 51, who received bipartisan support to take over the department, told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing late last month that he will strive to maintain and reinforce the bipartisan tradition of the department as well as dedicate himself using his years of public service to achieve its mandate of ensuring healthcare and services to the nation's veterans.

He said Biden has asked him to focus on "getting our veterans through this pandemic," helping them build civilian lives through education and jobs worthy of their experiences and talents, eliminating veteran homelessness and suicide and ensuring the department welcomes all veterans, including women, veterans of color and LGBTQ veterans.

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"In short, if confirmed I will work tirelessly to build and restore VA's trust as a premier agency for ensuring the well-being of America's veterans," he said. "After all, there is no more sacred obligation nor noble undertaking than to uphold our promise to our veterans whether they came home decades ago or days ago."

Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., told lawmakers before the vote Monday that amid a politically divided country, veterans and politicians are united in a desire for the department's next secretary to be a person of honor, integrity and vision.

"Denis McDonough has demonstrated that he is unequivocally the man for this job," he said. "And to be clear this is not an easy job. But Denis is used to making tough calls. He has shown an exemplary commitment to public service and a strong willingness to do right by those who have worn the uniform and sacrificed on behalf of our liberties."

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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