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Questions about qualifications could derail Trump's Indian Health nominee

Andrew Siddons, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Health & Fitness

"When Mr. Weaver started at our facility he was a young man who was only a year out of high school. He rapidly became a person others respected and sought out for advice and help dealing with operational issues within the facility," she said, according to the administration.

In an email, Talhelm said that when Udall asked for a list of his titles at the hospital, Weaver said he couldn't recall specifics, but provided a list of vague "best guesses" that included a position that earned him the nickname "Bed Control Rob."

"The last confirmed director was a physician who had worked in hospitals at a high level," Udall said. "(Weaver) has no training as a physician. He doesn't seem to have any broad management and supervisory experience. And so that's just very problematic."

Some Republicans on the Indian Affairs Committee share Udall's concerns. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said that given the agency's chronic problems with funding, staffing and management, she had a lot of questions after meeting with Weaver.

"His background, quite honestly, doesn't kind of line up with what you might anticipate one would put there," said Murkowski, who also oversees the Indian Health Service's funding on the Appropriations Committee. "But having said that, you don't hold that against him, you want to find out about him."

No one on the Indian Affairs Committee has said they opposed Weaver's nomination. Indian Affairs Chairman John Hoeven has not yet scheduled a hearing. A spokeswoman for the North Dakota Republican, Kami Capener, said in an email that the committee would look into the questions surrounding Weaver.

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"Our committee is committed to addressing long-standing issues at the Indian Health Service and improving the delivery of quality health care in tribal communities. That means ensuring the next IHS director is qualified to restore meaningful oversight and accountability at the agency," she said.

Other Republicans view Weaver's background as a boon instead of a barrier, and note that a background in medicine and hospital administration hasn't historically been a guarantee of success running the agency.

"I think you've got to get somebody in there who has a business background and who is focused on results and reform," said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who met with Weaver in November. "Clearly we've had people that have run hospitals before, and that has not changed IHS. So we need to try something different."

Given Trump's emphasis on applying business skills to government work, Weaver's business and complaints about agency may have attracted the administration's attention. Weaver, a member of Oklahoma's Quapaw tribe, met in February 2017 with his member of Congress, Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin.

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