Tester retains seat as Ranking Member on Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

by Martin Kidston, Missoula Current

Sen. Jon Tester on Friday said he will retain his seat as the senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, a position he first obtained two years ago.

As ranking member of the committee, Tester remains positioned to tackle VA-related issues and secure funding for other VA projects.

“The military has changed over the last number of years and the VA has been slow to make those changes,” Tester said Friday. “We’ve got a lot of women that serve in our military – far more than 30 or 40 years ago. The VA needs to take care of these women.”

During his first term as ranking member, Tester got 11 veterans bills signed into law, including protection for whistleblowers, holding VA administrators accountable for their performance, and aiding veterans with education assistance.

President Donald Trump praised the VA MISSION Act, which was another one of Tester’s bills.

But as ranking member, Tester drew fire from Trump when he joined Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, in vetting the president’s appointment of Ronny Jackson to head the VA. Jackson eventually withdrew his nomination as public pressure grew.

Tester later joined Republicans in approving Trump’s second nominee Robert Wilkie.

But Tester’s perceived role in Jackson’s withdrawal drew Trump’s ire and prompted the president to make four unprecedented trips to Montana last fall in an effort to unseat Tester. That also failed, and as Tester begins another term in the Senate, so too will he continue his role as ranking member of the Senate’s VA committee.

He’s served on the committee since 2007.

“Depending on what happens with Blue Water Navy, that will be at the top of the list in my book,” Tester said. “There’s going to be a lot of oversight. But the bottom line is that (Isakson) and I believe that we need to make sure the promise we make our military folks when they sign the dotted line is upheld.”