A senior Republican senator announced plans Tuesday to block the historic confirmation of Veterans’ Affairs first female deputy secretary over concerns that the nominee failed to protect personal information of whistleblowers during her duties as department chief of staff.

Army veteran Tanya Bradsher, who if confirmed would be the highest-ranking woman to serve full-time in the department’s leadership, was advanced by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee last week by a 13-6 vote and was expected to come up for a full chamber vote in coming days. But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he will use procedural rules to block any quick consideration of her nomination.

“We shouldn’t confirm a nominee who represents business as usual and continued inattention to Congress and our veterans,” he said in a floor speech announcing his hold. “I urge my colleagues to vote against this nomination until we get the answers to these problems.”

Bradsher, 53, has served as chief of staff to VA Secretary Denis McDonough since March 2021. Grassley’s concerns center on Bradsher’s oversight responsibilities for VA’s Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution (VIEWS) system, which tracks all department correspondence.

Critics of the system have said that personal information — including the names and accusations of whistleblowers — can be accessed by potential wrongdoers through flaws in the system. Grassley said investigations and fixes promised by VA leadership are months overdue.

He also accused Bradsher and other department leaders of “stonewalling my investigations into VA corruption for more than two years,” efforts which he said are aimed at ensuring VA services are providing proper care and benefits for veterans.

Bradsher, 53, is a fourth-generation soldier, serving in the Army for 20 years before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. She has held a series of federal posts since retiring from the Army in 2003, including work as a spokeswoman for the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security.

She received largely positive comments and questions from members of the veterans committee during her confirmation hearing in May. Democratic lawmakers have dismissed Grassley’s allegations as off-base and not directly related to Bradsher’s current or future leadership roles.

But Grassley’s hold now slows down plans to fill VA’s top leadership ranks for the first time in more than seven years. VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy stepped down from the department’s second-highest leadership post on April 1. With Grassley’s block, approval of Bradsher to the open position is likely to linger until September, if not longer.

Senate Democratic leaders can maneuver around the hold, but doing so will take several time-consuming procedural moves. The chamber is scheduled to go on a summer break from July 28 to Sept. 5, making any short-term resolution all but impossible.

Confirmation of senior administration posts have been snarled by political fights in the Senate this year. Since early March, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has blocked more than 200 senior Defense Department nominees from advancing over his objections to the military’s abortion access policies.

In March, Grassley blocked the nomination of Joshua Jacobs to serve as VA’s Under Secretary of Benefits over similar whistleblower protection concerns. Jacobs was eventually confirmed after a wait of more than a month.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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