"All I want are some damn answers": Tester blasts IHS Director d - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

"All I want are some damn answers": Tester blasts IHS Director during hearing

Posted: Updated:

During a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday regarding President Donald Trump's proposed budget, Montana's Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester blasted the Acting Indian Health Service Director Michael Weahkee for not answering a direct question. 

Tester asked Weahkee multiple times if funding would be increased or decreased for more staffing in the future. While both men agreed that staffing is a priority, Weahkee refused to answer the question when asked. 

Here is part of the conversation, sent to KFBB from Senator Tester's office:

Tester: “What does this budget do to your ability to hire staff?”

Weahkee: “We have a lot of efforts underway.”

Tester: “Is there increase in dollars for hiring staff or a decrease?”

Weahkee: “We prioritize maintaining direct care services.”

Tester: “Okay as far as total dollars go is there an increase in dollars for hiring staff or a decrease?”

Weahkee: “Our priority has been on insuring that we can continue to.”

Tester: “I guess you don’t get my question. You said it is a number one issue facing, and I agree with you by the way. So does the budget increase the number of dollars for hiring people or is it a decrease? I would assume you would know that.”

Weahkee: “Well sir we have had to make a lot of tough decisions.”

Tester: “Okay, so it’s a decrease is that what you are saying?”

Weahkee: “No sir I did not say that.”

Tester: “So is it? Look, come on man, just answer the question. I’ll back you until your guts cave if the administration comes after you, but is it an increase or a decrease?”

Weahkee: “We are really prioritizing our direct services.”

After another minute or so of continued back and forth, Tester said, "“Wow. I am not even going to go into facilities, I’m not going to go into what is going on with mental health, I’m not going to go into what is the problem with drugs. I will tell you that with the previous IHS staff I remember giving a speech similar to what the chairman did and that is that if you guys don’t advocate for a budget how the hell are we supposed to fix it. I have never had, in ten years on this committee, I have never had somebody come up here and when I ask them a direct question they don’t answer it. I asked you a direct question on whether this budget was up or down and you would not answer it, you refused to answer it. That is totally unacceptable. I did not come in here with my hair on fire, but I am leaving here with it. I am going to tell you something, Indian health services is in a crisis and if you have served in Indian Health services for ten years and you have answered the questions in Indian health service like you have here today, there is no wonder it is in a crisis. I cannot believe what has transpired in this hearing today. All I want are some damn answers, that’s it. And if we cannot get answers from Indian health where do we go to get those answers? I don’t expect you to answer that either. This is an unbelievable hearing, I just got to tell you I have not had one like this in my tenure in here. When I ask a question, I want an answer. It’s unbelievable.”

KFBB reached out to Indian Health Services for comment; Acting Director Weahkee says, "We appreciate the Committee members' support of the IHS mission and their desire to assist us in providing American Indians and Alaska Natives with access to quality health care.  We welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee and will continue our communication with the members to include responding with the information requested during today’s hearing.”

According to Senator Tester's office, the President's proposed budget will cut funding for IHS by $300 million.

  • Most Popular

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • UPDATE: GFPD officers cleared in shooting

    UPDATE: GFPD officers cleared in shooting

    Tuesday, January 23 2018 12:58 PM EST2018-01-23 17:58:30 GMT

    Fergus County Coroner Richard Brown, is presiding over an officer involved shooting from September of last year that resulted in the death of Great Falls resident 25 year old Thomas Addison. 

    Fergus County Coroner Richard Brown, is presiding over an officer involved shooting from September of last year that resulted in the death of Great Falls resident 25 year old Thomas Addison. 

  • Children abused, caregiver arrested

    Children abused, caregiver arrested

    Monday, January 22 2018 10:14 PM EST2018-01-23 03:14:41 GMT

    Weeks of abuse lead to multiple charges for one man.

    Weeks of abuse lead to multiple charges for one man.

  • Police report: Man threatens to start killing people

    Police report: Man threatens to start killing people

    Monday, January 22 2018 9:27 PM EST2018-01-23 02:27:02 GMT

    Police reports state a man is facing charges of Intimidation after he threatened to start killing people until he got his child back. 

    Police reports state a man is facing charges of Intimidation after he threatened to start killing people until he got his child back. 

  • UPDATE: Missing Butte toddler has been found

    UPDATE: Missing Butte toddler has been found

    Tuesday, January 23 2018 7:32 AM EST2018-01-23 12:32:38 GMT

    A Missing Endangered Person Advisory has been issued by Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement for a Montana toddler.

    A Missing Endangered Person Advisory has been issued by Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement for a Montana toddler.

  • Governor: 1 dead, many injured in high school shooting in southwest Kentucky

    Governor: 1 dead, many injured in high school shooting in southwest Kentucky

    Tuesday, January 23 2018 11:01 AM EST2018-01-23 16:01:31 GMT

    BENTON, Ky. - Kentucky State Police say the suspected shooter at a high school was apprehended by a Marshall County deputy. The Tuesday morning shooting at Marshall County High School in southwest Kentucky has left one person dead and others wounded. State police didn't provide any other immediate details about the shooter or the apprehension.

    BENTON, Ky. - Kentucky State Police say the suspected shooter at a high school was apprehended by a Marshall County deputy. The Tuesday morning shooting at Marshall County High School in southwest Kentucky has left one person dead and others wounded. State police didn't provide any other immediate details about the shooter or the apprehension.

  • NewsMore>>

  • Bullock protects net neutrality

    Bullock protects net neutrality

    Monday, January 22 2018 8:05 PM EST2018-01-23 01:05:50 GMT
    In front computer science students at Helena High, his alma mater , Governor Bullock made it blatantly clear that net neutrality laws will be observed under his watch, so that kids like Bryndon Wilkerson can get their online homework and research done with more ease. “While researching, students may not be able to access important pieces of information, thus limiting their knowledge,” said Wilkerson a Senior at Helena High School. Governor Bullock's order requires inter...
    In front computer science students at Helena High, his alma mater , Governor Bullock made it blatantly clear that net neutrality laws will be observed under his watch, so that kids like Bryndon Wilkerson can get their online homework and research done with more ease. “While researching, students may not be able to access important pieces of information, thus limiting their knowledge,” said Wilkerson a Senior at Helena High School. Governor Bullock's order requires inter...
  • Helena Woman Dies in Crash

    Helena Woman Dies in Crash

    Monday, January 22 2018 10:52 AM EST2018-01-22 15:52:48 GMT
    The Montana Highway Patrol says a 25-year-old woman has died in a single-vehicle crash north of Helena.    The patrol identified the victim as Kassandra Biller, of Helena, who was the only person in the vehicle.    The crash was reported around noon Saturday.    The patrol says the vehicle Biller was driving failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road. The vehicle struck several trees and rolled at least three times.    Biller was pronounc...
    The Montana Highway Patrol says a 25-year-old woman has died in a single-vehicle crash north of Helena.    The patrol identified the victim as Kassandra Biller, of Helena, who was the only person in the vehicle.    The crash was reported around noon Saturday.    The patrol says the vehicle Biller was driving failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road. The vehicle struck several trees and rolled at least three times.    Biller was pronounc...
  • Despite threats, Capitol workers feel safe

    Despite threats, Capitol workers feel safe

    Thursday, January 18 2018 7:37 PM EST2018-01-19 00:37:52 GMT
    HELENA, Mont.- A major threat to the state capitol as a man is taken into custody after telling police he was planning to "shoot up" the building.  Police say he may have been on his way to the capitol when he was caught. On Tuesday, the man told officers he planned to shoot up the Capitol the next day. Teams in Bozeman and Helena worked together to identify the suspect-- a 40-year-old Belgrade man. Yesterday they learned he had left Belgrade on his way to Helena. H...
    HELENA, Mont.- A major threat to the state capitol as a man is taken into custody after telling police he was planning to "shoot up" the building.  Police say he may have been on his way to the capitol when he was caught. On Tuesday, the man told officers he planned to shoot up the Capitol the next day. Teams in Bozeman and Helena worked together to identify the suspect-- a 40-year-old Belgrade man. Yesterday they learned he had left Belgrade on his way to Helena. H...
  • Update: Fatal crashed reported in Pondera County

    Thursday, January 18 2018 7:35 PM EST2018-01-19 00:35:27 GMT

    Montana Highway Patrol responded to a fatal vehicle accident Tuesday morning in Pondera County near the Heart Butte area. The accident took place on Heart Butte Road right in front of the U.S. Postal Office. The call came in over dispatch about 5:30 a.m. and took MHP troopers almost two hours to respond to the scene. Right now it is unclear what caused the accident or if anyone else was hurt or killed. We are working to find out more details.

    Montana Highway Patrol responded to a fatal vehicle accident Tuesday morning in Pondera County near the Heart Butte area. The accident took place on Heart Butte Road right in front of the U.S. Postal Office. The call came in over dispatch about 5:30 a.m. and took MHP troopers almost two hours to respond to the scene. Right now it is unclear what caused the accident or if anyone else was hurt or killed. We are working to find out more details.

Powered by Frankly
Copyright - All content © 2001 - 2018. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.