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Senator Capito talks VA security, immigration, COVID relief

Capito

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A killer could have been found sooner had there been security footage at the VA hospital in Clarksburg, a U.S. senator from West Virginia said Thursday.

The absence of cameras hindered the investigation into the murders at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said.

Federal authorities investigated the deaths of veterans at the facility, all of whom were patients on the same floor and died in similar circumstances — hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar — caused by the unprescribed injection of insulin.

Reta Mays, 46, of Clarksburg, a nursing assistant on floor 3A, pleaded guilty in July to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault to commit murder. Sentencing is scheduled for May in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg.

A reason the investigation took so long was the lack of security footage that could have pinpointed who the perpetrator was, Capito said.

Capito and Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mike Braun of Indiana, John Boozman of Arkansas and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have introduced a bill requiring the secretary of Veterans Affairs to report on the use of security cameras in VA medical centers. Similar legislation was presented in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Dave McKinley, Carol Miller and Alex Mooney, all of West Virginia.

Other hospitals have such safeguards, Capito said.

“I think we ought to have that” in VA facilities, too, Capito said.

Capito held a virtual press conference with West Virginia reporters on Thursday from Washington, D.C.

She talked about the COVID-19 stimulus package, schools reopening, immigration and President Joe Biden’s nominations of Janet McCabe as deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency and Brenda Mallory to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The nominees served in the Obama administration.

Climate change is real and solutions are needed, yet past policies have hurt West Virginia, according to Capito.

“But don’t drop us on our heads like you did in the Obama administration where we still are reeling from some of the economic results of that,” Capito said.

The administration change in immigration policy has created another border crisis with Mexico, Capito said. Border crossings have increased by 45 percent, including by drug-smuggling mules and particularly unaccompanied children, she said.

Biden reversed the previous administration’s rule to expel unaccompanied children. The country is on track to accept more than 117,000 unaccompanied children under 18 years old, Capito said.

“It’s obvious to me the word is out. It’s time to re-enter the United States because what the president has put forward is not a deterrent any longer,” Capito said.

Capito will not support the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. About $1 trillion has nothing to do with the health aspects of the virus, she said.

“Way, way too much spending” that is not targeted where it would do the most good, she said.

She supports the unemployment and individual aid aspects of the bill and for schools, but $80 billion for schools from the last package has yet to be spent, Capito said. It is so massive, amendments to make the bill more appealing to Republicans won’t be enough, she said.

“I will be voting no,” she said.

(Mancini can be contacted at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com)

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