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Tester On The New Nominee To Head Veterans Affairs

Jackie Yamanaka

U.S. Senator Jon Tester said he he looks forward to the pending Senate confirmation hearing for the nominee to head the Veterans Administration. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said he has a good working relationship with the man who is currently the acting secretary.

Tester told about 300 Democrats gathered for the annual Truman Day Dinner in Billings Friday night his responsibility is to continue to do what's right for veterans. He said he will continue to work with President Donald Trump when it's good for Montana, but will fight when it isn't 

Tester enraged the president after he went public with a document that led to Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson's decision to withdraw his nomination to be VA secretary.    

Montana media had a hard time reaching Tester for comment afterwards.

“I'm an actively engaged farmer. We had a late spring this year,” said Tester who is sanguine about the media firestorm that erupted after Trump criticized Tester and called on him to resign.

Robert Wilkie, acting secretary of the Veterans Administration, was named by President Donald Trump to head the agency.

“I was listening to the radio going, 'gosh I'd love to get out there and respond to this' but those of us who are involved in agriculture know that timing is critical,” said Tester, who still farms near Big Sandy. “If you miss the window of timing of getting the crop in the ground it can have really, really bad economic consequences in August or September when you go to harvest that crop.”

Tester, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said while he knows Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, as the nominee, Wilkie will still be subjected to tough questioning before the committee. 

“In the end we have to do our jobs if the president doesn't like it, the president doesn't like it but the constitution is clear on what our jobs are,” he said.

The president named Wilkie to serve as Acting Secretary of the VA on March 28, 2018. He is the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.