Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove dropped out of the running for secretary of veterans affairs shortly after businessman Luis Quinonez declared he was withdrawing.
The Department of Veterans Affairs position is proving one of the hardest for President-elect Donald Trump to fill in his cabinet, Military Times reports.
Quinonez dropped out over health issues. Sources say he has been battling cancer for the last several years. The Trump team wanted him partly because of his experience in the health care industry and also because he’s Hispanic.
Aides close to Trump reportedly wanted Cosgrove, the frontrunner after Quinonez, to take on the position, but told him that it would require a lot of commitment. In the end, Cosgrove apparently said he wasn’t able to drop his obligations at the Cleveland Clinic and devote his full attention to running the VA.
The top candidates left at this point include Pete Hegseth, former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, and former GOP Sen. Scott Brown. Both had already been listed as top candidates a couple of weeks ago. Now, with numerous new candidates dropping out, Hegseth and Brown are back at the top of the pile.
Navy Adm. Michelle Howard is also under consideration, though she’s believed to be a long-shot candidate.
Numerous veterans’ groups pushed for Trump to consider keeping current VA Secretary Robert McDonald; Trump officials have dismissed the idea out of hand, likely owing to extreme policy differences.
Transition officials are expected to provide an update on the search Tuesday.
If Trump doesn’t pick a candidate soon, it’s unlikely that one would be ready to take office right after Trump is sworn in, as the Senate confirmation process takes several weeks.
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