Tester, Daines welcome new VA secretary nominee as president looks to fill post

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines welcomed President Donald Trump’s latest nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday, with Daines pledging his full support and Tester saying he was eager to quiz the nominee on his vision for the agency.

Trump on Friday announced plans to nominate Robert Wilkie as the agency’s permanent leader. Wilkie was named acting secretary two weeks ago after Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin.

“Robert is a friend and I know he will do what it takes to put our veterans first in a department that has not been giving our heroes the treatment they deserve,” Daines said Friday. “I look forward to putting my full support behind his nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

After Trump fired Shulkin in late March, he nominated Ronny Jackson, who ran into trouble among members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee after his colleagues raised a number of misconduct allegations, including accusations of excessive drinking and his loose approach to issuing prescription drugs.

Tester, D-Montana, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., postponed Jackson’s scheduled hearing and Jackson, facing pressure, withdrew his name from consideration.

On Friday, Tester said he looked forward to vetting Wilkie.

“Veterans deserve a strong leader who will address VA workforce shortages, reform community care and live up to the promises our nation made veterans and their families,” Tester said. “I have a good working relationship with Acting Secretary Wilkie and I look forward to sitting down with him again to have an in-depth conversation about his vision and plan for the VA.”

Tester has voted for 13 of Trump’s nominees to serve veterans.