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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Veterans Affairs acting Secretary Robert Wilkie after informing him that he will be nominating him to be the new Secretary of the VA, during the Prison Reform Summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Senate panel OKs Trump nominee Robert Wilkie to lead troubled VA

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has voted to approve President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead Veterans Affairs.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee agreed on voice vote Tuesday to back Robert Wilkie, currently a Pentagon undersecretary. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont voted “no.”

Wilkie has pledged to “shake up complacency” to improve long waits at VA. Under questioning by Democrats, Wilkie insists he will not privatize the government’s second-largest agency. During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to steer more VA patients to the private sector.

Wilkie’s nomination now goes to the full Senate.

Trump selected Wilkie for the post in May after firing former VA Secretary David Shulkin. Trump’s first replacement choice, White House doctor Ronny Jackson, withdrew after allegations of workplace misconduct surfaced.

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